Tuesday 8th May 2018, 8:00pm
Session 196: “What is a Classic?” by J.M. Coetzee
During this Theory Tuesdays session, the ninth and final held at the Kunsthalle Zürich during the Rob Pruitt: The Church exhibition, Blas Ulibarri selected the essay “What is a Classic?” by J.M. Coetzee from the book Stranger Shores: Essays 1986-1999 (Vintage, 2002).
“What’s at stake for Coetzee in this title, and by extension in this entire collection, becomes clearer in the opening essay, ‘What Is a Classic?’ His title echoes the one T. S. Eliot used in a famous lecture presented to the Virgil Society in the war-torn London of 1944. Eliot has been whittled down to size in recent years, but he has never been dissected so thoroughly as he is here. Coetzee has little patience for the way in which this American expatriate, through ‘a diffidence concealing ruthless singleness of purpose,’ has ‘made himself into the deliberately magisterial voice’ of London and of imperial Europe. Coetzee shows how Eliot’s desperation to recreate himself as something he was not is inseparable from his ‘attempt to give a certain historical backing to a radically conservative political program for Europe.'” -James Shapiro, New York Times