NeMLA 2022 Panel: Photographic Craft in the Fiction of J.M. Coetzee
53rd NeMLA Annual Convention - Baltimore, Maryland, 10-13 March, 2022
In J.M. Coetzee's recently published Photographs from Boyhood, Hermann Wittenberg takes note of the “full extent” of Coetzee’s “early photographic experimentation,” a sign that even at a young age the future Nobel Laureate “took the craft of photography seriously.” This panel proposes to take its cue from Wittenberg by considering how the photographer’s craft may give us insights into the workings of Coetzee’s fiction. Given Coetzee’s admission in an interview with Wittenberg that “the marks of photography…are all over my work, from the beginning,” his adamant assertion that it’s not his responsibility to “join up the dots” presents panelists with an opportunity to bring critical freshness to discussions of an author around whom a substantial critical industry has developed.
While photographs figure prominently in texts such as Dusklands and Slow Man, this panel is especially interested in exploring how photographic craft and literary form coincide in Coetzee’s prose. Questions at the heart of this panel include, but are not limited to, the following: What signs of intermediality are evident in Coetzee’s approach to literary form, and what are we to gain when we look at the author’s prose with an eye to photographic craftsmanship? How does photography – as process and/or as product – contextualize and influence form and theme in the Coetzeean oeuvre? When we join up the dots, as Coetzee unsurprisingly refuses to do on our behalf, what new pictures emerge from the marks of photography scattered through his novels?
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