The Origins of Speech Lie in Song: Music as Language in Coetzee’s Age of Iron

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Abstract

In Disgrace, David Lurie finds preposterous the proposition that “Human
society has created language in order that we may communicate our thoughts,
feelings and intentions to each other”, privately believing that, on the contrary,
“the origins of speech lie in song” (Coetzee 2000: 3-4). In my 2010 book J. M.
Coetzee and the Power of Narrative, I included a brief survey of references to
music as a type of language in Coetzee’s work. In this paper I will examine
my claim in greater depth, seeking musical resonances in his novel Age of Iron,
both in his prose and in the form and structure of the novel. I will attempt
to account for my impression that despite his reputation for spare, academic
prose, Coetzee is a lyrical and impassioned writer, and that musical rhythms
and structures are an essential element in his work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-34
Number of pages9
JournalLe Simplegadi
Volume18
Issue number20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • JM Coetzee
  • music and literature
  • Age of Iron

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