2011 | 8 | 57-93
Article title

Sister of Philomela: Debt in Coetzee’s Disgrace

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This essay discusses the financial and moral complexities at the center of Disgrace by Coetzee, its inquiry positioned in the context of the postcolonial decoding of the novel. Primarily, I focus on Lucy’s choice to stay in the house where she falls victim to the crime. Following “the rhetorical signal to the active reader, to counterfocalize,” which Spivak pinpoints in Disgrace, I reconstruct Lucy’s story from intimations and hints woven into the main narrative. Having unraveled the mystery of Lucy’s abortion, mentioned in passing, I propose that during David’s visit to her house, Lucy falls victim to corrective rape as both a lesbian and a single woman who thrives living in the countryside; lastly, I proceed to prove that Lucy acts like a woman “corrected” when she signs her property over to Petrus, although the true price she has to pay to her assailants staged as “debt collectors, tax collectors” (158) is her sexuality.
  • Atwood, Margaret (2008). Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Coetzee, J. M. (2008). Disgrace. London: Vintage.
  • Head, Dominic (2009). The Cambridge Introduction to J. M. Coetzee. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Graham, Lucy Valerie (2003). “Reading the Unspeakable: Rape in J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.” Journal of Southern African Studies 29/2: 433-444. Available at < stable/3557371>. Accessed 21.04.2011.
  • Irigaray, Luce (1996). This Sex Which Is Not One. Catherine Porter (trans.) Ithaca: Cornel University Press.
  • Moffett, Helen (2006). “‘These women, they force us to rape them’: Rape as Narrative of Social Control in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Journal of Southern African Studies 32/1: 129-144. Available at < 070>. Accessed 21.04.2011.
  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (2002). “Ethics and Politics in Tagore, Coetzee, and Certain Scenes of Teaching.” Diacritics 32/3/4: 17-31. Available at < 1566443>. Accessed 21.04.2011.
  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1998). “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In: Cary Nelson, Lawrence Grossberg (eds.). Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. London: Macmillan, 271–313.
  • Rich, Adrienne (1980). “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” Signs 5/4: 631-660. Available at <>. Accessed 23.04.2011.
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