Tim Mehigan reviews 'Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, philosophy and J.M. Coetzee' edited by Patrick Hayes and Jan Wilm

Tim Mehigan reviews 'Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, philosophy and J.M. Coetzee' edited by Patrick Hayes and Jan Wilm

Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, philosophy and J.M. Coetzee

edited by Patrick Hayes and Jan Wilm

Oxford University Press, $112.95 hb, 264 pp, 9780198805281

Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, philosophy and J.M. Coetzee is a new collection of essays on J.M. Coetzee, perhaps the most important author of imaginative literature in the world today. Unifying the diverse strands of argument animating this thoughtful volume, the book’s editors, noted Coetzee scholars Patrick Hayes and Jan Wilm, link the aims of the collection to the ‘ancient quarrel’ between philosophy and literature in Greek antiquity. In their view, Coetzee’s writing can be taken not only to re-examine this quarrel and the way it was settled (in favour of philosophy and against literature in Plato’s Republic), but also, and more importantly, to break with the uneasy truce that has been deemed to govern intellectual life ever since.

In assaying such difficult ground, the volume is enriched by the contribution of several philosophers who use Coetzee either as a foil for an independent investigation or as a sympathetic agent of reform based on what can be known of his commitments. With all this in mind, the reader is not offered straightforward enlightenment of Coetzee’s works and concerns. The collection, indeed, is very much one for the philosophically minded and the specialist – readers well versed in Coetzee’s dense and eclectic worlds of spare prose, unresolved plotlines, and proliferating intellectual complexity.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in April 2019, no. 410
Tim Mehigan

Tim Mehigan

Tim Mehigan is the editor of A Companion to the Works of J.M. Coetzee (Camden House, 2011) and The Intellectual Landscape in the Works of J.M. Coetzee (Camden House, 2018). He researches on German and European literature and thought and is Deputy Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.