Heart of stone: posthumanist politics in Life & Times of Michael K

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Abstract

Certain of J.M. Coetzee's novels have been considered in the light of posthumanist theory, but to date this has mainly meant applying animal studies precepts to them, as a way of exposing the limits of anthropocentric thinking. By contrast, this article considers the institutional manifestations of humanism, demonstrating how Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K (1983) conducts a "post-humanist" critique of them. This is undertaken from three angles: first, by exploring the protagonist's "immanentist" bearing, with its echoes of Kafka's "humanimals"; then, by means of the storytelling dynamics that are part of the novel's discourse and determine its formal strategies; and finally, by highlighting the "stony" identity of Michael K, as a key aspect of his counter-humanist resistance. With these elements in play, the novel indicates how a posthumanist politics takes shape, even via a figure whose precarious existence compels him to withdraw from history and social involvement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-38
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Keywords

  • J. M. Coetzee
  • posthumanism
  • immanence
  • storytelling
  • stones

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