A Face without Personality: Coetzee's Swiftian Narrators

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Much has been written about the complicated intertextual relationships between J. M. Coetzee's novels and previous works by writers such as Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Samuel Beckett, and, especially, Daniel Defoe. Relatively little has been written, in comparison, about any relationship between Coetzee and Defoe's great contemporary, Jonathan Swift. We claim no extensive structural relationship between Coetzee's novels and Swift's works-nothing like the formal interlace between Robinson Crusoe and Foe, for example. We do claim, however, a strong and explicitly signalled likeness of narrative stance, marked especially by the ironic distance between author and protagonist in Gulliver's Travels and Elizabeth Costello. We rehearse the extensive evidence of Coetzee's attention to Swift (both in novels and criticism) and suggest that there is a Swiftian dimension to Coetzee's oeuvre that is evident in several books, including Dusklands, Youth, Elizabeth Costello, and Diary of a Bad Year.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalAriel-A Review of International English Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Elizabeth costello
  • Gulliver's travels
  • J. M. coetzee
  • Jonathan swift
  • Narrative voice


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