Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Boulukos, George


Scholars argue that Coetzee’s novels critique and disavow the origins and legacy of the novel tradition and its influence on the contemporary novel. They also claim that J.M. Coetzee’s novels herald in the demise of the contemporary novel. These interpretations are motivated by the political readings of postcolonialism and postmodernism. The premise of this dissertation is to depart from those postcolonial and postmodern approaches and offer close readings of Coetzee’s novels through the origins and legacy of the early eighteenth-and nineteenth century novel. My study argues that several of Coetzee’s novels allude to the intellectual, historical, and cultural legacies of the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century novel. I argue that the origin and rise of the English novel and its subgenres provide Coetzee with ideas to use in his own novels. These paradigms in Coetzee’s novels espouse —rather than renounce — the influence and tradition of the early novel, showing that its inspiration remains relevant in the contemporary novel. Thus, the general premise of this dissertation is that Coetzee does not necessarily “write back” to the canon and the origins of English novel, but rather he writes through and with those enduring forms and structures. This study shows that there are literary connections between the early beginnings of the novel and the contemporary novel that offer cogent examinations —examinations that find compromise between the past and present rarely made through postcolonial or postmodern approaches.

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