“Let us keep going and see what comes up”: The Poetics of Study in J.M. Coetzee’s <i>The Childhood of Jesus</i>



Coetzee, Agamben, ethics of reading, education, potentiality


This article argues that J.M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus embodies a poetics of study. Noting Coetzee’s sustained interest in educational thought, the article places Coetzee’s enigmatic novel in dialogue with Giorgio Agamben’s idea of study, which brings together the latter’s foundational thinking on infancy, potentiality and the messianic. It shows how The Childhood of Jesus prompts its readers towards the pursuit of infinite interpretive possibilities in the present moment, inviting a different mode of reading than the future-directed Derridean/Levinasian ethics of hospitality through which Coetzee’s earlier works have often been read. 

Author Biography

Charlotta Elmgren, Stockholm University

Charlotta Elmgren is a researcher and teacher at the Department of English at Stockholm University. She defended her doctoral dissertation, “J.M. Coetzee’s Poetics of the Child,” in January 2019.