Disgrace by J M Coetzee

Disgrace by J M Coetzee

Disgrace by J M Coetzee

The Novel

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

do here:

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.

MLA Resources


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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