DOI link for “There, there”
“There, there” book
In this chapter, I intersect disability studies with critical animal studies to perform a novel reading of J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello. My reading argues that Elizabeth Costello is essentially a crip character: Costello’s experience of aging and disability catalyzes her thinking about other animals, while her rhetoric foregrounds the vulnerability she broadly shares with them. But without a cripped reading of the narrative, Costello may—and, to some critics, does—seem addled, needy, or “mad.” Coetzee appears to anticipate such misreadings, the narrative drawing out moments of misunderstanding so as to draw Costello into proximity with other animals, who are perennially subject to testimonial injustice. Such an association transforms Costello into a figure of allegory. More specifically, the mortifications of Elizabeth Costello allegorize processes by which other animals are conceptually and materially broken down. Together with Costello’s lectures, Coetzee’s critical work suggests that a quandary of realism necessitates allegorization: literature cannot justly depict violence done to other animals, yet that violence cannot simply be bracketed out. Ultimately, allegory provides other animals a sheltering opacity, one that offers resistance to conceptual mastery while inspiring proto-ethical affects and responses.