Rereading an Old Foe
The epigraph to J. M. Coetzee’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech contains a thought of pedagogy. Entitled “He and his man,” the address depicts the pedagogical relation of two men estranged by history. In his telling, pedagogy precedes and exceeds what happens in school or education writ large. The words opening Coetzee’s lecture are not his. They are written by Daniel Defoe, author of the renowned English children’s book Robinson Crusoe. In the Nobel lecture, Coetzee delivers a reading of a new story of the relation of men caught in the distinctly onto-epistemological problem of needing to know the unknown other. The author’s fantasy of companionship exceeding the circumstances of colonial contact is hinged on education. Robinson’s desire to know Friday, to teach him, characterizes the libidinal structure that grounds pedagogy. Pedagogy is formal in the literary sense: A child is literally being formed and figured by language as she learns how to communicate.