J.M. Coetzee


John Maxwell Coetzee, better known as J.M. Coetzee, was born in South Africa on February 9th, 1940. His father worked for the government and also as a sheep farmer. When Coetzee was eight, his father lost the government job due to his differing views from the then apartheid government. The family then moved to the provincial town of Worcester.

During his early years, his studies were done in Cape Town where he obtained his B.A. in 1960 and his M.A. in 1963. He then traveled the world working as a systems programmer for International Computers in Bracknell, Berkshire from 1964-1965. He later obtained his P.H.D. in literature from the University of Texas at Austin in 1969. Upon completion of these studies, he returned to his native land of South Africa to join up as a lecturer at the University of Cape Town in 1972 until 1983. In 1984 and 1986 he would again journey overseas to become the Butler Professor of English at the State University of New York in Buffalo. He was then the Hinkley Professor of English at John Hopkins University in 1986 and 1989 and the Visiting Professor of English at Harvard University in 1991.
J.M. Coetzee was married in 1963 and then divorced in 1980. He had one son and one daughter from the marriage. His son was killed in an accident at the age of 23. Coetzee’s separation from his wife before his divorce was widely expected by his friends as many labeled him as a reclusive and private man. This label was further evidenced by the fact that he did not journey to London to receive the Booker Prize in 1984 for his novel: The Life and Times of Michael K, nor when he again won the honor for his novel Disgrace in 1999.

Author Rian Malan descibes Coetzee as: "a man of almost monkish self-discipline and dedication. He does not drink, smoke or eat meat. He cycles vast distances to keep fit and spends at least an hour at his writing-desk each morning, seven days a week. A colleague who has worked with him for more than a decade claims to have seen him laugh just once. An acquaintance has attended several dinner parties where Coetzee has uttered not a single word." (qtd. In Cowley)

However, Coetzee's solitude has not allowed him to go unnoticed in any way. His books have become worldwide bestsellers and he is the only author to have ever won the Booker Prize twice.


J.M. Coetzee is a writer who is strongly influenced by his own personal background of being born and growing up in South Africa. Although a white writer living in South Africa during apartheid, Coetzee grew to believe in and write with strong anti-imperialist feelings. His international writings tended to set him apart from fellow authors in South Africa and his writing was said to be mostly influenced by the postmodernist writers of Europe and America. These writers also contained many anti-imperialist sentiments as a reaction to the Vietnam war. Many of Coetzee's personal experiences and beliefs can be seen in his books. Coetzee describes his sense of alienation from fellow Afrikaners in his biography, Boyhood:Scenes from Provincial Life. Coetzee also writes in his biography and his novels about the laws that divided himself and others into racial categories that served to further alienate him.

This is evidenced in his first novel Dusklands. In this book Coetzee focuses on two settings: one, the US State Department during the Vietnam era and two, stories of the exploration and conquest of Southern Africa in the 1760’s by a man named Jacobus Coetzee. These two vastly different locations work together to bring out the alarm and paranoia of aggressors no matter what the location and to show the unthinkable ways in which dominant groups impose their ways upon other cultures.

His first novel to win the Booker Prize, The Life and Times of Michael K, is set in Cape Town, a city on the verge of racials wars, and centers around a gardener who attempts to transport his dying mother to the farm of her youth. Although she dies during the journey, Michael K continues on to her farm with her ashes. He lives quite happily in solitude on her old farm until he is captured and accused of aiding guerillas. The great weight of the novel relies on the fact that it does not focus in on racial separations but is more concerned with saving humanity as a whole.

In his latest novel and the one responsible for garnering him a second Booker prize, Disgrace, Coetzee deals with a South African professor name David who goes out to visit his daughter, Lucy's, farm. While he is there a gang of two men and one boy rapes his daughter. When he later sees the boy at a party thrown by Lucy's neighbor, Petrus, he demands justice. Petrus refuses, and promises protection from further attacks to Lucy only if she marries him. The issues in this novel deal with many of the current plights of South Africa. Land, crime, rape, lack of police protection and racial divides are all themes of the novel and problems in modern day South Africa.

All of Coetzee's writings are similar in that they often center on a solitary character. No direct moral is ever given, but rather situations are set up for the reader to think about. Coetzee’s aim is not to provide solutions, but to highlight problems and have the reader form their own conclusions.


-CNA award 1978, 1980, 1983
-James Tait Black Memorial prize, 1980
-Faber Memorial award, 1980
-Booker prize, 1983, The Life and Times of Michael K
-Fémina prize (France), 1985;
-Jerusalem prize, 1987;
-Sunday Express Book of the Year award,1990;
-Mondello prize (Italy), 1994.
-D.Litt.: University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, 1985
-Life Fellow, University of Cape Town;
-Fellow, Royal Society of Literature, 1988
-Honorary Fellow, Modern Language Association (U.S.A.), 1989.
-Booker Prize, 1999, Disgrace



-Dusklands:Ravan Press (Johannesburg), 1974, Penguin Books (New York City), 1985.
-From the Heart of the Country, Harper (New York City), 1977
-Waiting for the Barbarians, Penguin Books, 1982.
-The Life and Times of Michael K., Viking (New York City), 1984.
-Foe, Viking, 1987.
-Age of Iron, Random House (New York City), 1990.
-The Master of Petersburg, Viking, 1994.
-Disgrace, Viking Penguin, 2000 (First Published in Great Britain by Martin Secker & Warburg 1999)


-White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa. New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press, 1988.
-Doubling the Point. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1992.
-Editor, with André Brink, A Land Apart: A South African Reader. London, Faber, 1986; New York, Viking, 1987.
-Translator, A Posthumous Confession, by Marcellus Emants. Boston, Twayne, 1976; London, Quartet, 1986.
-Translator, The Expedition to the Baobab Tree, by Wilma Stockenström. Johannesburg, Ball, 1983
-Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, Viking (New York City), 1997.

Works Cited

"J(ohn) M(ichael) Coetzee" (2000). Online. Contemporary Authors Online, The Gale Group 2000. Internet. Biography Resource Center. Available by subscription only.

"J.M. Coetzee" (1996). Online. Contemporary Novelists, 6th ed. St. James Press, 1996. Internet. Biography Resource Center. Available by subscription only.

"J.M. Coetzee”"(1998) Online. Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998. Internet. Biography Resource Center. Available by subscription only.

Cowley, Jason. "The ideal chronicler of the new South Africa, he deserves to make literary history as a double Booker winner" (Oct 25, 1999). New Statesman, 1996. Online. Biography Resource Center. Available by subscription only

Fleur Adcock

"I no longer feel inclined to make comments on my own work, which I feel should speak for itself." (qtd. in Feminist Writers)


Kareen Fleur Adcock was born February 10, 1934, in Papakura, New Zealand to Cyril John and Irene Robinson Adcock. She legally changed her name to Fleur Adcock in 1982. Her early education began in New Zealand; however, she spent most of her childhood (1939-1947) living and studying in England while both of her parents helped with World War II. After the war, her family returned to New Zealand where she received a degree in Classics from Victoria University at Wellington in 1954. At Victoria, Adcock met and married the poet Alistair Campbell in 1952. She gave birth to her first son, Gregory, just after she completed her B.A. degree. In 1956 she earned an M.A. The following year she gave birth to her second son, Andrew; in 1958 she and Campbell were divorced. In 1958, Adcock took a job as an assistant lecturer in classics at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. She also worked in the University library until 1961. In 1962, Adcock returned to Wellington to work in the Alexander Turnbull Library. This same year she briefly married writer Barry Crump. Her divorce from Crump in 1963 inspired Adcock to move from New Zealand to England with her five-year old son Andrew, leaving Gregory with his father. In London, Adcock worked as a librarian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In 1975-76, Adcock paid her first visit to New Zealand since she left the country for London thirteen years before. The experience was traumatic. Upon her return to London, Adcock took two creative writing fellowships, the first at Charlotte Mason College of Education in Windermere and the second at the universities of Newcastle upon Tynne and Durham. Since 1980, Adcock has worked as a freelance writer, producing her own poetry and translating and editing collections. She also delivers talks on poetry for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Major Themes

Adcock's poetry is characterized by images drawn from her immediate experience. Although the subject of her poetry often deals with personal matters, it is not confessional. "The content of my poems derives largely from those parts of my life which are directly experienced," Adcock said, "relationships with people or places; images and insights which have presented themselves sharply from whatever source, conscious or subconscious; ideas triggered off by language itself" (qtd. in Contemporary Authors). The nature of her poetry creates a tendency for impressionability; its subject and tone are dependent upon the place and time she is writing in. Adcock is often referred to as "the expatriate poet" because her life has been split between New Zealand and England, both countries claiming her as their own. "The awareness of the split in her life makes Adcock concentrate on the present, leading to rich description and clear imagery. She often focuses on particular places, immediate and concrete, to suggest that which is missing, using the present landscape as a backdrop for the 'receding pictures' it emotionally evokes" (Feminist Writers).

Adcock was trained as a classicist and much of her early work emphasizes structure, rhyme, and meter, as evidenced in The Eye of the Hurricane. Her first book of poetry contains reflections of her life in New Zealand, with a few poems written in England. Her second collection, Tigers, contains both new poems and the poems from The Eye of the Hurricane which she wanted to preserve. The poems in this book, such as "The Cave," focus on the conflict between the necessity of her urban life and Adcock's deeper desire to be free of society.

Beans grow well here, and little turnips.

Sometimes I find mushrooms

Or nuts, and every week I go

To the farm for eggs, cheese,

Salt and oatmeal. Often they give me

Olives and figs as well.

It is half a day's journey from here.

(I sometimes think of her

Shopping in the supermarket, fixed

Nervously by a shelf

Of tins, hesitating between three

Brands of coffee, in four

Different sizes.)

The subject of Adcock's poetry is often unromantic, yet she provides a deeper, sometimes dark, twist on what appears to be a mundane situation. High Tide in the Garden, published in 1971, reflects a return to domestic concerns. She writes about the house in East Finchley which she had just purchased and several poems reflecting back on her son Gregory and her previous life in New Zealand.

The Scenic Route focuses on Adcock's relationship with her Irish ancestors; the poems in this book are shorter and more imagistic than is typical of her style. Her earlier poems based on domesticity convey a feeling of familiarity; the poems in this collection are known as her travel poems and "cherish the variable physical details of a world viewed freshly" (Dictionary of Literary Biography). These poems integrate Adcock's interior landscape with the exterior world that she is exploring.

Adcock's next collection, The Inner Harbor, was written after a traumatic return to New Zealand. The book is divided into four sections and confronts the issues of love, death, and loss. In the final section, her poems reflect an acceptance and coming to terms with the losses that Adcock experienced thus far in her life.

Since 1980, Adcock's poetry has broken new ground. She experiments with different voices and speakers, moving away from direct observations and into an exploration of the unconscious. Her themes continue to include ancestry/history, love, death, childhood, and sex.


* Festival of Wellington Poetry Award, 1961.
* New Zealand State Literary Fund Award for Achievement (with others), 1964.
* Buckland Award (New Zealand), 1968 and 1979.
* Jesse MacKay Prize (New Zealand), 1968 and 1972.
* Cholmondeley Award, 1976.
* New Zealand National Book Award, 1984.
* Art's Council Writers' Award, 1988.
* Order of the British Empire, 1996.

Writings by Adcock


The Eye of the Hurricane. Wellington, Australia: Reed, 1964.
Tigers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.
High Tide in the Garden. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.
The Scenic Route. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.
The Inner Harbour. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Below Loughrigg. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1979.
Selected Poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.
(With Maura Dooley, S. J. Litherland, and Jill Maugham)
Four-Pack, One: Four from Northern Women, Bloodaxe Books, 1986.
Hotspur: A Ballad for Music (libretto), music by Gillian Whitehead, Bloodaxe Books, 1986.
The Incident Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Meeting the Comet. Bloodaxe Books, 1988.
Time-Zones. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Looking Back. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.


Craeasnaru, Daniela. Letters from Darkness: Poems. Trans. by Adcock. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
The Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry. Ed. by Adcock. London: Faber and Faber, 1987.
Hugh Primas and the Archpoet. Trans. and ed. by Adcock. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
The Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry, edited by Adcock (Auckland and London: Oxford University Press, 1982).
The Oxford Book of Creatures. Ed. by Adcock and Jacqueline Simms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Tartler, Grete. Orient Express: Poems. Trans. by Adcock. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
The Virgin and theNightingale. Trans by Adcock. Newcastle upon Tynne: Bloodaxe Books, 1983.


Allnut, Gillian. "Genealogies." Poetry Review 88:1 (Spring 1998): 95-6.
Bleiman, Barbara (ed.). Five modern poets: Fleur Adcock, U.A. Fanthorpe, Tony Harrison, Anne Stevenson, Derek Walcott. New York: Longman, 1993.
Edmond, Lauris. "All interview with Fleur Adcock." Landfall: A New Zealand Literary Magazine 36 (1982): 320-6.
Gregson, Ian. "Your voice speaking in my poems: polyphony in Fleur Adcock." English: the Journal of the English
Association. 42:174 (Fall 1993): 239-51.
Hulse, Michael. "Fleur Adcock: a poet with bite." Quadrant. 28:197 (Jan/Feb 1984): 52-53.
Robinson, Lillian S., (ed.). Modern Women Writers. Volume One. New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Co., 1996.
Ruddick, Bill. "A clear channel flowing: the poetry of Fleur Adcock." Critical Quarterly. 26:4 (1984): 61-66.

Articles by Adcock

"Beginnings." Islands 7 (1979): 347-56.
"Some dangerous beautiful dislocation." Listener. 101: 2206: 22-3.
"Rural blitz: Fleur Adcock's English childhood." Poetry Review. 74: 2 (June 1984) :5-12.
"Geneology and poetry". GRINZ Yearbook. 1993: 1-9.
"The way it happens". The Poet's Voice and Draft, ed. C.B. McCully. Manchester:
Carcanet, 1994.
"Weilding the jawbone of an ass". New Zealand Books 4 (2):1 (August 1994): 11-12.

Works Cited

Feminist Writers. Edited by Pamela Kester-Shelton. Detroit: St. James Press, 1996.
Gale Database: Contemporary Authors. The Gale Group, 1999.
Gale Database: Dictionary of Literary Biography. The Gale Group, 1999.

Introduction to Postcolonial Studies

The field of Postcolonial Studies has been gaining prominence since the 1970s. Some would date its rise in the Western academy from the publication of Edward Said's influential critique of Western constructions of the Orient in his 1978 book, Orientalism. The growing currency within the academy of the term "postcolonial" (sometimes hyphenated) was consolidated by the appearance in 1989 of The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. Since then, the use of cognate terms "Commonwealth" and "Third World" that were used to describe the literature of Europe's former colonies has become rarer. Although there is considerable debate over the precise parameters of the field and the definition of the term "postcolonial," in a very general sense, it is the study of the interactions between European nations and the societies they colonized in the modern period. The European empire is said to have held sway over more than 85% of the rest of the globe by the time of the First World War, having consolidated its control over several centuries. The sheer extent and duration of the European empire and its disintegration after the Second World War have led to widespread interest in postcolonial literature and criticism in our own times.


The list of former colonies of European powers is a long one. They are divided into settler (eg. Australia, Canada) and non-settler countries (India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka). Countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe which were partially settled by colonial populations complicate even this simpledivision between settler and non-settler. The widely divergent experiences of these countries suggest that "postcolonial" is a very loose term. In strictly definitional terms, for instance, the United States might also be described as a postcolonial country, but it is not perceived as such because of its position of power in world politics in the present, its displacement of native American populations, and its annexation of other parts of the world in what may be seen as a form of colonization. For that matter, other settler countries such as Canada and Australia are sometimes omitted from the category "postcolonial" because of their relatively shorter struggle for independence, their loyalist tendencies toward the mother country which colonized them, and the absence of problems of racism or of the imposition of a foreign language. It could, however, be argued that the relationship between these countries to the mother country is often one of margin to center, making their experience relevant to a better understanding of colonialism.


The debate surrounding the status of settler countries as postcolonial suggests that issues in Postcolonial Studies often transcend the boundaries of strict definition. In a literal sense, "postcolonial" is that which has been preceded by colonization. The second college edition of The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "of, relating to, or being the time following the establishment of independence in a colony." In practice, however, the term is used much more loosely. While the denotative definition suggests otherwise, it is not only the period after the departure of the imperial powers that concerns those in the field, but that before independence as well.

The formation of the colony through various mechanisms of control and the various stages in the development of anti-colonial nationalism interest many scholars in the field. By extension, sometimes temporal considerations give way to spatial ones (i.e. in an interest in the postcolony as a geographical space with a history prior or even external to the experience of colonization rather than in the postcolonial as a particular period) in that the cultural productions and social formations of the colony long before colonization are used to better understand the experience of colonization. Moreover, the "postcolonial" sometimes includes countries that have yet to achieve independence, or people in First World countries who are minorities, or even independent colonies that now contend with "neocolonial" forms of subjugation through expanding capitalism and globalization. In all of these senses, the "postcolonial," rather than indicating only a specific and materially historical event, seems to describe the second half of the twentieth-century in general as a period in the aftermath of the heyday of colonialism. Even more generically, the "postcolonial" is used to signify a position against imperialism and Eurocentrism. Western ways of knowledge production and dissemination in the past and present then become objects of study for those seeking alternative means of expression. As the foregoing discussion suggests, the term thus yokes a diverse range of experiences, cultures, and problems; the resultant confusion is perhaps predictable.


The expansiveness of the "postcolonial" has given rise to lively debates. Even as some deplore its imprecision and lack of historical and material particularity, others argue that most former colonies are far from free of colonial infuence or domination and so cannot be postcolonial in any genuine sense. In other words, the overhasty celebration of independence masks the march of neocolonialism in the guise of modernization and development in an age of increasing globalization and transnationalism; meanwhile, there are colonized countries that are still under foreign control. The emphasis on colonizer/colonized relations, moreover, obscures the operation of internal oppression within the colonies. Still others berate the tendency in the Western academy to be more receptive to postcolonial literature and theory that is compatible with postmodern formulations of hybridity, syncretization, and pastiche while ignoring the critical realism of writers more interested in the specifics of social and racial oppression. The lionization of diasporic writers like Salman Rushdie, for instance, might be seen as a privileging of the transnational, migrant sensibility at the expense of more local struggles in the postcolony. Further, the rise of Postcolonial Studies at a time of growing transnational movements of capital, labor, and culture is viewed by some with suspicion in that it is thought to deflect attention away from the material realities of exploitation both in the First and the Third World.

Major Issues

Despite the reservations and debates, research in Postcolonial Studies is growing because postcolonial critique allows for a wide-ranging investigation into power relations in various contexts. The formation of empire, the impact of colonization on postcolonial history, economy, science, and culture, the cultural productions of colonized societies, feminism and postcolonialism, agency for marginalized people, and the state of the postcolony in contemporary economic and cultural contexts are some broad topics in the field.

The following questions suggest some of the major issues in the field:

How did the experience of colonization affect those who were colonized while also influencing the colonizers? How were colonial powers able to gain control over so large a portion of the non-Western world? What traces have been left by colonial education, science and technology in postcolonial societies? How do these traces affect decisions about development and modernization in postcolonies? What were the forms of resistance against colonial control? How did colonial education and language influence the culture and identity of the colonized? How did Western science, technology, and medicine change existing knowledge systems? What are the emergent forms of postcolonial identity after the departure of the colonizers? To what extent has decolonization (a reconstruction free from colonial influence) been possible? Are Western formulations of postcolonialism overemphasizing hybridity at the expense of material realities? Should decolonization proceed through an aggressive return to the pre-colonial past (related topic: Essentialism)? How do gender, race, and class function in colonial and postcolonial discourse? Are new forms of imperialism replacing colonization and how?

Along with these questions, there are some more that are particularly pertinent to postcolonial literature: Should the writer use a colonial language to reach a wider audience or return to a native language more relevant to groups in the postcolony? Which writers should be included in the postcolonial canon? How can texts in translation from non-colonial languages enrich our understanding of postcolonial issues? Has the preponderance of the postcolonial novel led to a neglect of other genres?

Major Figures

Some of the best known names in Postcolonial literature and theory are those of Chinua Achebe, Homi Bhabha, Buchi Emecheta, Frantz Fanon, Jamaica Kincaid, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. A more comprehensive although by no means exhaustive list follows.

LITERATURE: Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Peter Abrahams, Ayi Kwei Armah, Aime Cesaire, John Pepper Clark, Michelle Cliff, Jill Ker Conway, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Anita Desai, Assia Djebar, Marguerite Duras, Buchi Emecheta, Nuruddin Farah, Amitav Ghosh, Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, Merle Hodge, C.L.R. James, Ben Jelloun, Farida Karodia, Jamaica Kincaid, Hanif Kureishi, George Lamming, Dambudzo Marechera, Rohinton Mistry, Ezekiel Mphahlele, V. S. Naipaul, Taslima Nasrin, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Flora Nwapa, Grace Ogot, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, Gabriel Okara, Ben Okri, Michael Ondaatje, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Allan Sealy, Shyam Selvadurai, Leopold Senghor, Vikram Seth, Bapsi Sidhwa, Wole Soyinka, Sara Suleri, M.G.Vassanji, Derek Walcott, etc.

FILM: Shyam Benegal, Gurinder Chadha, Claire Denis, Shekhar Kapoor, Srinivas Krishna, Farida Ben Lyazid, Ken Loach, Deepa Mehta, Ketan Mehta, Mira Nair, Peter Ormrod, Horace Ove, Pratibha Parmar, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ousmane Sembene, etc.

THEORY: Aijaz Ahmad, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Bill Ashcroft, Homi Bhabha, Amilcar Cabral, Partha Chatterjee, Rey Chow, Frantz Fanon, Gareth Griffiths, Ranajit Guha, Bob Hodge, Abdul JanMohamed, Ania Loomba, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Vijay Mishra, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Arun Mukherjee, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Benita Parry, Edward Said, Kumkum Sangari, Jenny Sharpe, Stephen Slemon, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Aruna Srivastava, Sara Suleri, Gauri Viswanathan, Helen Tiffin, etc. [source]