Corporeality and positionality in J.M. Coetzee’s In the heart of the country AND Making America great again: Trump’s rhetoric of nation-building and American exceptionalism

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Caitlin O'Hara (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Alexandra Schultheis Moore

Abstract: “I am among other things a farmgirl living in the midst of the hurlyburly or such paltry hurlyburly as we have in the desert, not unaware that there is a hole between my legs that has never been filled, leading to another hole never filled either” (Coetzee 41). J.M. Coetzee writes In the Heart of the Country as the diary of his main character, Magda. She is a single, white, South African woman who lives at home with her father. My paper, “Corporeality and Positionality in J.M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country” explores Coetzee’s descriptions of bodies, space, and place in the text. By grounding these descriptions in the historical role of white women in pastoral, apartheid-era South Africa, I demonstrate that Coetzee’s descriptions of physical bodies and the actions they perform reflect their place in the colonial order and the spaces they are allowed to occupy. Through this reading, Magda’s refusal to acknowledge the black servant characters as individuals despite her own criticism of the place and space she and other single, white women are allowed to inhabit becomes legible. This illuminates Coetzee’s larger claims about the failure of the colonial project. AND.The United States 2016 presidential election left citizens of the U.S. and the world bewildered, regardless of political affiliation. The Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump, was marketed as a viable option because of his lack of political experience. He continually referred to himself as a candidate from “outside of the establishment.” Tangentially, U.S. liberals frequently referred to Trump’s rhetoric about people of color, immigrants, women, and the disabled as unprecedented. Many Democrats in the United States discussed Trump as someone who was unqualified because of that same lack of political experience and wrote him off as an unintelligent person who did not use his words with intention (this argument is frequently used by those who read his Twitter). In my essay, “Making America Great Again: Trump’s Rhetoric of Nation-Building and American Exceptionalism,” I examine Trump’s campaign rhetoric and argue that it does have historical precedent. I first turn to the work of Jeremy Engels to examine the ways Thomas Jefferson used rhetoric to write rebellious slaves in the U.S. as enemies to the unified nation. He repeatedly used tactics of fear to make white U.S. citizens view black people as the dangerous Other. Similarly, Donald Trump’s campaign named many enemies who threatened the essence of great and safe Americanness. He eventually named his political/public opposition as the dangerous enemy, too. I explore this creation of enemies through Donald Trump’s naming of women, Hispanic people (particularly Mexicans), black Americans, and Muslims. Throughout the course of his campaign and beyond it, Trump mobilized his largely white supporters by instilling fear, denying animacy to his enemies, and insisting on the validity of United States exceptionalism. I rely on Mel Y. Chen’s theory of animacy and Jasbir K. Puar’s work on U.S. exceptionalism and homonationalism to make the historical precedent for Trump’s strategy legible.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Animacy, Donald Trump, Exceptionalism, In the Heart of the Country, White feminism
Coetzee, J. M., $d 1940- $t In the heart of the country
Trump, Donald, $d 1946- $x Language
South Africa $x In literature
Apartheid in literature
Rhetoric $x Political aspects $z United States
Exceptionalism $z United States

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