AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Exploring the construction of white male identity in selected novels by J.M. Coetzee

by Jacqueline Elizabeth May Dent

Institution: University of South Africa
Year: 2009
Keywords: White male identity construction and performance; Colonialism, its legacy in South Africa/America; Violence, violation and abuse; Victims and perpetrators; Social taboos; Patriarchal hegemonic ideological discourses as the language of dominance; Mothers in society/relationship with sons; Myths; History; Culture and religion; Psychoanalytical theories: Klein; Freud; Transference; Coetzee oeuvre; Narration; Style; Autre-biography
Record ID: 1467078
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10500/1583


Coetzee's own experience of living in apartheid South Africa provides the backdrop for novels infused with sardonic irony and rich metaphoric systems. In modes of metafiction that emphasize the destructive and violent nature of language, he optimizes his unique oeuvre to interrogate global, national and domestic power relations. This dissertation relies on psychoanalytical theories that examine microstructures of power within the individual, and in his domestic domain. Each of Coetzee's chief protagonists carries a secret related to a dysfunctional mother/son relationship. This hampers their psychosocial dynamics, their masculinity and sexuality. As they respectively strive toward an elusive new life they confront patriarchal power structures that speak on behalf of individuals, '[whose] descent into powerlessness [is] voluntary' (Coetzee 2007: 4-5). Coetzee's constructed white males perform their several identity roles in milieux that span divergent phases of colonial history. His critique points to white patriarchal hegemonic ideological discourses that bespeak the self/other dichotomy in a postcolonial world where the language of dominance supports an oppressive status quo.