The primary aim of this thesis is to read some novels of J M Coetzee in terms of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas which puts ethics before ontology.
Levinas’s ethics are concerned simply with respecting and being responsible for the alterity of the Other. Another way of saying this is that the Other’s material needs are my spiritual needs. In this philosophy there is no system or methodology which would allow the Other to be reduced to the Same.
My reading focuses upon the concepts of Saying, Testimony and Fecundity and highlights the alterity of the Other as central to an understanding of the thought of both Coetzee and Levinas.
In the first chapter I examine the use of the Saying and the Said. While there is of course no Saying without a Said, my thesis shows how this Saying opens up a discourse that has within it an ambiguity that not only refuses closure, but also resists hierarchy and does not have an authorial presence. There is no hint of moralizing, of saying how things should be but, rather, an indication of how things are. The Saying is diachronic insofar as it produces time from the relationship with the Other. Time is anachronic in its emergence from the relationship with the Other when it recuperates the past. In Chapter two I show that this is achieved in testimony which specifically redeems the past by mourning those gone before. Chapter three explores how messianicity, which is also anachronic, is seen in fecundity in which the Other to come which comes as an event can come now.