20 Pages


“Things to Learn”: Pedagogy and the Novels of J.M. Coetzee
ByAparna Mishra Tarc

J. M. Coetzee is three years old in 1943, when his mother brings home a ten-volume set of the 1925 edition of Arthur Mee’s The Children’s Encyclopedia. Coetzee’s story of growing up with the Children’s Encyclopedia is one familiar to many children growing up in the golden century of English literacy. Comprising the Standard English medium curriculum in schools worldwide, the instructions, logics, and symbolic forms of British humanism, for better and worse continue to be internalized by children and students at home and school as they learn to read. Vera Coetzee builds for a son a literary curriculum sustaining the person he comes to be. In her selections of and from the Children’s Encyclopedia and in her orientations toward those texts, she softly influences her son’s reading, both what and how he reads. Novel pedagogy is one that Coetzee’s readers, scholars, and critics also wordlessly register, as evidenced by unsettled, frustrated, and upset responses to and reception of his work.