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Waiting for the Barbarians Part 1


Title: Waiting for the Barbarians Part 1 Author: rlazo Last modified by: Rodrigo Lazo Created Date: 2/4/2014 4:36:45 AM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Waiting for the Barbarians Part 1

Waiting for the Barbarians Part 1
J.M. Coetzee
  • B.1940 South Africa
  • Won Nobel Prize in Literature, 2003
  • Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) is the 3rd of
    12 novels
  • Opponent of animal cruelty, has worked that into

Three Simultaneous Phenomena in the Structure of
  • From the book
  • The Body in Pain
  • A theory about the social and political function
    of torture.
  • Part of a longer book that considers pain in
    various realms of society at different points in
    history. Moves discussion of pain outside of a
    medical realm and into social considerations,
    including its role in war.
  • Book inspired by so few descriptions of
  • pain in literature.

3 parts
  • 1) Experience of pain is subjective more
    emphatically real than any other human
    experience but cannot be sensed by other
  • 2) Torture makes the subjectivity of pain
    objective (visible) through its operations (e.g.
    drowning torture).
  • 3) The objectified pain is translated into the
    insignia of power (118)

Elements of pain in torture
  • Aversive, a negation of the body
  • Conflates private and public (and here we might
    think back to the public official)
  • Obliterates consciousness - annihilation of
    thought and emotion
  • Ability to destroy language The tendency of
    pain not simply to resist expression but to
    destroy the capacity for speech is in torture
    reenacted in overt, exaggerated form.

Objectification Power
  • Visibility
  • Surveillance
  • Shift outside of the body
  • Instruments of torture (pain and power)
  • Telephone, chair and walls
  • Relatives of the tortured
  • Questions

The translation to power
  • A. Weapon is an object that goes into the body
    and produces pain.
  • B. As something perceived in a torture scenario
    the weapon lifts the pain out of the body and
    makes it visible
  • C. The torture weapon allows pains attributes
    to be broken off from the body and attached
    instead to the regime. (118)

Scarry includes sexuality among the insignia of
Photo from Abu Ghraib
The Depositions
  • They stripped me of all my clothes, even my
    underwear. (168)
  • Kasim Mehaddi Hilas
  • And after that they order me to sleep on my
    stomach and they ordered the other guy to sleep
    on top of me in the same position and the same
    way to all of us. Hiadar Sabar Abed Miktub

Sexuality as an instrument of abuse
  • Allows for a disclaiming of the pain.
  • (Photos show people divorced from the pain
    experienced by the prisoners.)
  • The torturer
  • He first inflicts pain, then objectifies pain,
    then denies the pain. (119)

Blindness and/as Power
  • It is not merely that his power makes him blind,
    nor that his power is accompanied by blindness,
    nor even that his power requires blindness it
    is, instead, quite simply that his blindness, his
    willed amorality, is his power, or a large part
    of it. (119)

Waiting for the Barbarians
  • Opening paragraph
  • I have never seen anything like it
  • How does the tension of seeing/not seeing emerge
    at various points in the novel?
  • How does that relate to the Magistrates attempt
    to comprehend events and his own life?

  • Narrator
  • Functionary of the Empire
  • Aging man
  • Questions
  • What is the effect of not giving us his name?
  • How does he describe himself at various points in
    the book?

Service of the Empire
  • PAGE 8
  • I did not mean to get embroiled in this
  • A quiet life in quiet times.
  • PAGE 12
  • Looking at him I wonder how he felt the very
    first time
  • Pass without disquiet

Roman Magistrate
  • Officials of Rome
  • Elected or appointed depending on point in
  • Functioned during different periods of Roman
    power (including the Republic and the Empire)
  • What is the point of this classical term?

What is the setting?
  • Is there a name for the place?
  • How would you describe it?
  • What is the magistrates relationship to the

The post is in relation to
  • P. 12
  • f you get lost it becomes our task here to find
    you and bring you back to civilization.
  • PAGE 8
  • In the capital the concern was that the
    barbarian tribes of the north

Is it South Africa?
  • Coetzee lived there until he moved to Australia
    in 2002.
  • When the novel was published, South Africa still
    under apartheid rule.
  • Apartheid (the state of being apart) was
    enforced (legal) racial segregation.
  • Coetzee concerned about authoritarian rule and
    mistreatment of blacks.

Or is it an unnamed place?
  • Could be anywhere anytime
  • Tends toward the universalist
  • Could be nowhere no time
  • Points toward the difficulty of situating it

How are barbarians described?
  • PAGE 15
  • The barbarians, who are pastoralists, nomads..
  • PAGE 37
  • There have been no barbarian visitors this year.

In opposition to civilization?
  • PAGE 23
  • And your inquiries, Colonel, among the nomad

Appearance -- Sight
  • PAGE 25
  • She kneels in the shade of the barracks
  • A few days later I see her crossing the square
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