Disgrace by J M Coetzee
Disgrace by J M Coetzee
Read this first.
In this course you will be reading one complete novel and writing a literary essay about it. Make sure
you buy the novel, Disgrace, by J M Coetzee as soon as possible. The first chapter is provided for
you in your Module One Resources folder so that you can get started immediately. After getting the
book, read it and enjoy the journey, but make notes on the margins as you go along. You will write an
extended literary essay on it at the end of the module.
Your Critical Evaluation on Disgrace by J M Coetzee
When you write an extended literary essay, you are essentially presenting an arguable thesis. You are
arguing that your perspective or your critical evaluation of the novel is a valid one. You may look for
other writers’ insights by reading articles you find, but you must avoid taking too much from those at
all costs. It is easy to slip into plagiarism without harmful intentions. The Module One Resources
folder has a funny video titled “A Plagiarism Carol” you can’t miss. To avoid plagiarism, using MLA
style to credit sources in literary essays is an important focus of this module. The MLA Resources
folder explains what it is and how it’s used. In addition, it is essential to have the necessary
vocabulary in order to write about fiction. Read those definitions in the page titled “Elements of
Fiction.” There’s more to writing a scholarly academic paper, of course, but it’s all in the Module One
Resources folder. It’s not a folder you can skip. You handbook is also a very important resource. Keep
it open when you take quizzes and write the paper (you’ll raise your average with it).
Your Thesis Statement
Like any paper you have ever written for a first-year composition course, you must have a specific,
detailed thesis statement that reveals your perspective. When writing about literature, your
perspective must be one which is not overtly obvious. In this folder you will find a page titled
“Choose One Topic and Approach.” You will find several topics and approaches to choose from, but you
will write your own thesis statement. When deciding on your thesis, pay attention to what to do/not to
You would not want to write a thesis like this:
J. M. Coetzee’s novel, Disgrace takes place in post-apartheid South Africa.
That doesn’t say anything. Basically, it only states a fact about the story. It does not go beyond the
obvious. Also is not acceptable is the following:
Disgrace, a novel by J M Coetzee, traces a white middle-class professor as he faces disgrace for
having sex with a student.
That doesn’t say much either. It is merely a one-sentence summary of the novel’s plot.
A better thesis would be something like this:
J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace suggests that the white professor’s disgrace reflects the disgrace and shame
of whites in post-apartheid South Africa.
That is debatable, maybe even controversial. Some scholars might disagree with the above statement. If
your thesis statement is not completely debatable, it should at least make a statement that is not
obvious, seeing the work in a different way through thought and discovery.
Choose a Topic and Approach for your Literary Essay
A person using a laptop with crumpled paper on the table.
Choosing your literary essay topic and the approach you will take on Disgrace by J M Coetzee is the
first step to writing the paper due at the end of this month.
After reading the first chapter or a bit more, you should be able to decide in which direction you’d
like to take your paper.
Topics/ approaches (Focus on only one of the following, though some may overlap):
Analysis of one of these characters: Lucy Lurie, Melanie Isaacs or Petrus.
Example: Analyze not only the chosen character’s personality, but also what roll they played in
advancing the overall theme of the novel.
The protagonist’s understanding of the nature of the conflict to be resolved and the hurdles to be
Example: It could be hope for change, both in South Africa and in David Lurie. OR: the disgrace David
Lurie has suffered over the affair with a student and how that matches the disgrace South Africa has
suffered through apartheid.
The function of setting to reinforce theme and characterization
Example: post-apartheid South Africa is a setting as if not more important than anything else in the
novel. Your outside sources would be bit of history concerning apartheid.
The use of literary devices to communicate theme: imagery, metaphor, symbolism, foreshadowing, irony
Example: Symbolism — Analyze what dogs represent in this story. OR: Determine if David Lurie
represents the old, white South Africa, while Lucy represents the new white South Africa.
Point of view: The author’s focus on the perspectives of one or more characters.
Example: The difference between David’s and Lucy’s perspectives on how to respond to the problems in
post-apartheid South Africa and how that fits with the author’s theme.
Careful examination of one or more central scenes and its/their crucial role in plot development,
resolution of conflict, and exposition of theme.
Example: Analyze one or more scenes in which hope that change for the better is possible through a
character’s remorse and subsequent actions.
Possible issue to be addressed in introduction or conclusion:
Characteristics that make the work typical (or atypical) of the period, the setting, or the author that
produced it. For this information, you must go to a library database (you have read in the past module
“How to Access Miami Dade Databases”) or a valid search site, such as Google Scholar.
Do not open or close with biographical material on the author. Biographical material is important as it
influences the author’s writing only and should not be a focus of your paper.
What’s MLA style, and why do we use it? It is the style used mainly in the Humanities field. By using
it, you avoid plagiarism and you become credible as a scholarly writer. Other fields have other
documentation styles, so you might have to change styles depending on the field of study in which you
write. Later in this course, you’ll learn another format, so do not bother to memorize the details.
Keep your handbook open or online handbook accessible as you write your papers. MLA is the preferred
style for literary essays.
What is meant by cross-referencing? That means all the sources used for research are included in two
In-text citations: In the parenthetical citations within the text itself. Example: the author’s name
and page number where the information was from in parentheses: (Author’s last name 27).
List of sources used: Every journal article, book, government publication, etc. cited in your essay
will be listed in a limited bibliographical list called the Works Cited page in MLA. The Works Cited
page will contain all the information necessary about the sources used (who wrote it, where and when it
was published, etc.). Only sources actually cited in the text are listed in the Works Cited page.
Secondary sources: When writing about literature, you will write your own ideas about a literary work.
However, secondary sources are often required: books and articles in which experts discuss some aspect
of the literary text or other material related to your topic.
Your handbook, A Writer’s Reference is your most useful tool, with a tab section (pgs. 391-470) on MLA
style and all the details you need to write your paper. Keep it opened while you work. Click on this
folder, MLA Resources to find sample papers, a YouTube video and other helpful tools to get you started
using MLA style.
Why am I sending you to the Miami Dade College databases? Because Googling your topic will take you to
too many unacceptable sources. Most of what’s in the database will be acceptable. If you don’t feel
you’ve found what you were looking for in the MDC site, you may try Google Scholar or any other
university library databases.
Make sure to read the page titled “Evaluating Sources” and/or the section on “Evaluating Sources” in
tab R3, pg. 375 of A Writer’s Reference. Those will keep you from choosing wrong sources, no matter
where you find the articles and sources that you want to use.
How to access the Miami Dade College database: Begin by going to the Miami Dade College home page menu
on the left > Libraries > Databases A to Z.
Or go directly with this link: www.mdc.edu/learning-resources/libraries/
Anyone with an Internet connection can search for library materials online. You must connect to the
databases by using your valid Borrower ID and PIN which is your MDC student or employee number. Your
Borrower ID is your MDC student/employee number, and your PIN (unless you change it) is the last 4
digits of your MDC student/employee number.
Read the page “Read This First” by scrolling down.
Get the short novel Disgrace by J M Coetzee immediately. The first chapter is provided in the Module
One Resources folder to get you started.
View Multimedia presentations on MLA Format and “A Plagiarism Carol” in the Module One Resources folder
Read all the information in the Resources for Module One folder
Read “Citing sources; avoiding plagiarism” under the MLA tab in A Writer’s Reference, 8th edition, page
399-403 on how to avoid plagiarism.
Click on the folder titled MLA Resources (the last item in the Module One Resources folder). Read all
the content (be sure to take a close look at the sample paper provided, especially note the set-up of
the Works Cited page).
Graded Work: Quizzes (Q1.1: Plagiarism, Q1.2: Elements of Fiction, Q1.3: MLA Works Cited/
Graded Work: Discussion Board Posts (D1.1 Plagiarism Today; D1.2 Choose a Topic/Write a Thesis; D1.3,
Using Databases – MLA.
Read all the information in the Module One Milestone Assignment folder.
Graded Milestone Assignment: W1.1 Literary Essay Submission This is is the most important assignment in
this module. All the other assignments lead up to writing this milestone essay, and it is weighed
Read Tab L3-a to L5 in A Writer’s Reference, “Writing About Literature” and pay close attention to the
sample paper on page L-30. Your essay must be formatted like the sample.
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