‘The Schooldays of Jesus’ gets rare public reading by ‘fictioneer’ JM Coetzee

Wednesday 27 September 2017
A portrait of J. M. Coetzee taken during his visit to The University of Texas at Austin in May 2010. Photo by Marsha Miller.
J M Coetzee during his May 2010 visit to The University of Texas at Austin, by Marsha Miller.

Nobel Prize-winning author J M Coetzee will give a public reading from his most recent novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, on 6 October at 5.30pm as part of the two-day Coetzee & the Archive conference at Senate House, London.

The conference will also include musical performances from acclaimed New Zealand pianist Kathryn Mosley, and a presentation and screening by the 2017 Prix Pictet winning artist, Richard Mosse whose most recent work was inspired by Coetzee’s novel, Waiting for the Barbarians. The event provides a unique opportunity for leading academics in the field to discuss the author’s work.

Coetzee & the Archive, which runs from 5 to 6 October, is a collaborative effort by the Institute of English Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, SOAS, and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Organised by Marc Farrant, doctoral student and associate lecturer at Goldsmiths, and Dr Kai Easton, senior lecturer in English and chair of the Centre for English in the School of Arts at SOAS, it is the first of its kind in London, and is sponsored by the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) and the John Coffin Memorial Trust.

What does it mean to be a fictioneer? And what is the relationship between author J M Coetzee’s fictionalised memoirs and the factual records that lie behind them? That’s part of what visitors to Coetzee & the Archive can answer for themselves about the South African author, literary critic and academic.

The consolidation in 2012 of the Coetzee Collection at the world-famous Harry Ransom Center (HRC), University of Texas in Austin, offers an exciting opportunity for scholars to address anew enthralling and intractable questions.

This inaugural conference on the Coetzee Archive invites academics to engage with both the archive and the specific and voluminous materials that have travelled to the HRC to date. The archive fills 140 document boxes, 13 oversize boxes and one galley file, documenting all of Coetzee's major writings and including notes, typescripts, background research materials and publicity materials. Professional correspondence and materials documenting personal and family history are also part of the papers.

Touching upon disciplines as varied as the life sciences, theology and philosophy, South African history and politics, Coetzee’s richly curated archive serves as a springboard for further investigations into his published writing and collaborative work. Among the event’s 27 confirmed speakers are academics from the UK, South Africa, Greece, Germany, Italy, Australia and the US. 

Influenced by his personal history growing up in South Africa Coetzee, who received an honorary doctorate from SOAS in 2015, writes with strong anti-imperialist sentiments. He has published some 13 novels, including Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace, which was made into a film of the same name in 2008. Both works received the Man Booker Prize, making him the first author to receive the award twice. His 1980 novel, Waiting for the Barbarians, was adapted into an opera by composer Philip Glass. Coetzee received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

Coetzee & the Archive is open to the public but prior registration is required. Tickets: £65 / £45 (conference and J M Coetzee reading) | £10 (J M Coetzee reading only).

Friday, 6 October: J M Coetzee will read from The Schooldays of Jesus, followed by a performance of Bach by pianist Dr Kathryn Mosley, a reception and book signing. 

Friday, 6 October: A screening and presentation by conceptual documentary photographer and Deutsche Börse Photography Prize winner Richard Mosse.

Notes for editors

  1. For all enquiries, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations OfficerSAS, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8859 / maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk. Images available on request.
  2. The Institute of English Studies (IES), founded in 1999 out of the Centre for English Studies, is an internationally renowned research centre, dedicated to promoting advanced study and research in English studies in the wider national and international academic community. It provides a centre for excellence in English language, literature, palaeography and the history of the book. Its activities include facilitating academic discussion and the exchange of ideas through its comprehensive events programme, hosting major collaborative research projects, providing essential research training in book history and palaeography, and facilitating scholarly communities in all areas of English studies. The Institute of English Studies is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. www.ies.sas.ac.uk
  3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled resources, facilities and academic opportunities across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. Last year SAS welcomed 786 research fellows and associates, held 2,007 events highlighting the latest research in the humanities, received 24.4 million online visits to its research resources and platforms, and hosted 194,145 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads Being Human, the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.
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