Daniel Williams deposited Coetzee’s Stones: Dusklands and the Nonhuman Witness in the group LLC 20th- and 21st-Century English and Anglophone on MLA Commons 2 years, 9 months ago
Bringing together theoretical writing on objects, testimony, and trauma to develop the category of the “nonhuman witness,” this essay considers the narrative, ethical, and ecological work performed by peripheral objects in J. M. Coetzee’s Dusklands (1974). Coetzee’s insistent object catalogues acquire narrative agency and provide material for a counter-narrative parody of first-personal reports of violence in Dusklands. Such collections of nonhuman witnesses further disclose the longer temporality of ecological violence that extends beyond the text’s represented and imagined casualties. Linking the paired novellas of Dusklands, which concern 1970s America and 1760s South Africa, the essay finds in Coetzee’s strange early work a durable ethical contribution to South African literature precisely for its attention to nonhuman claimants and environments.