Late Coetzee Revisited


  • Duncan McColl Chesney National Taiwan University
Keywords: Coetzzee, Late style, World Literature


In this paper I reassess the discussion of Coetzee and late style by focusing on the criticism from around the time of Elizabeth Costello in order to observe if these treatments, and the concept of lateness developed by Adorno and Said, help us to understand the late, late Jesus trilogy. After reviewing the crisis in the novel exemplified by the Dairy I turn to an analysis of the Jesus novels and then finally assess the discussion of Coetzee in recent work in World Literature. The late, late works of Coetzee do not fit exactly within the existing critical discussion of late Coetzee; yet, they cannot be easily subsumed within an account of the post-historicist, global novel. These novels, while not Coetzee’s best, must still be understood within the history of Coetzee’s own development as a writer. Precisely, this attention to continuity helps reveal both strengths and weaknesses of late, late Coetzee.


Download data is not yet available.


Adorno, T. W. (1998). Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music. Rolf Tiedemann (Ed.), trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford UP.

Attridge, D. (2004). Against Allegory. In J.M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Writing. Chicago: Chicago UP.

Attwell, D. (2015). J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing. New York: Viking.

Attwell, D. (2021). Coetzee's Postcolonial Diaspora. Twentieth Century Literature, 57(1), 9–19.

Boehmer, E. (2011). J.M. Coetzee’s Australian Realism. In C. Danta, S. Kossew & J. Murphet, (Eds.), Strong Opinions: J.M. Coetzee and the Authority of Contemporary Fiction. New York: Continuum.

Chesney, D. M. C. (2017). An Essay against Global Literature: Literature and the Global Public. Concentric, 43(2), 251–274.

Coetzee, J. M. (2003). Elizabeth Costello. New York: Vintage.

Coetzee, J. M. (2007). Diary of a Bad Year. New York: Viking.

Coetzee, J. M. (2013). The Childhood of Jesus. London: Harvill Secker.

Coetzee, J. M. (2016). The Schooldays of Jesus. London: Harvill Secker.

Coetzee, J. M. (2019). The Death of Jesus. Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Coetzee, J. M. & Auster, P. (2013). Here and Now: Letters 2008–2011. New York: Viking.

Coletti, V. (2011). Romanzo mondo. Bologna: Il mulino.

De Viliers, R. (2022). Criteria of Embarrassment: J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Jesus Trilogy’ and the Legacy of Modernist Difficulty. English Studies in Africa, 65(1), 58–71.

Felski, R. & Friedman, S. (Eds.). (2013). Comparison: Theories, Approaches, Uses. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP.

Ferrant, M. (2019). Finitizing Life: Between Reason and Religion in J.M. Coetzee’s Jesus Novels. Journal of Modern Literature, 42(4), 165–182.

Forest, S. (2019). Challenging Secularity’s Posthistorical ‘Destination’: J.M. Coetzee’s Radical Openness in the Jesus Novels. Journal of Modern Literature, 42(4), 146-164. DOI 10.2979/jmodelite.42.4.10.

Gordimer, N. (1998). The Idea of Gardening: Life & Times of Michael K. In S. Kossew (Ed.), Critical Essays on J.M. Coetzee. New York: G.K. Hall.

Kannemeyer, J. C. (2012). J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing. Trans. Michiel Heyns. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball.

Murphet, J. (2011a). Coetzee and Late Style: Exile within the Form. Twentieth Century Literature, 57(1), 86–104.

Murphet, J. (2011b). Coetzee’s Lateness and the Detours of Globalization. Twentieth Century Literature, 57(1), 1–8.

Pippin, R. (2021). Metaphysical Exile: On J.M. Coetzee’s Jesus Fictions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Preston, A. (2019, December 31). The Death of Jesus by JM Coetzee – a barren end to a bizarre trilogy. The Guardian.

Said, E. (2006). On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain. New York: Vintage. Kindle E-book.

Spivak, G. C. (2014). Readings. London: Seagull Books.

Tajiri, Y. (2016). Beyond the Literary Theme Park: J. M. Coetzee’s Late Style in The Childhood of Jesus. Journal of Modern Literature, 39(2), 72–88.

Thomsen, M. (2008). Mapping World Literature: International Canonization and Transnational Literature. London: Continuum.

Walkowitz, R. (2015). Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature. New York: Columbia UP.

Wittenberg, H. (2010). Late Style in J.M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year. Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa, 15(2), 40–49.

How to Cite
Chesney, D. M. (2022). Late Coetzee Revisited. International Journal of English Studies, 22(2), 73–89.