Hero and bad motherland: J. M. Coetzee's computational critique

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This article discusses J. M. Coetzee’s computing experiences and its implications for his creative and critical writings from the 1960s onwards in a South African context. Against a backdrop in which the South African Apartheid regime was increasingly reliant upon and associated with computing, Coetzee would critique “computational thinking” in his work. Yet, he would also turn to the machine itself as a means by which to develop a platform of “aesthetic automatism” that was at once politically responsible and autonomous from computationalism. The article offers a “biometric” reading of Coetzee’s novel Life & Times of Michael K (1983) and demonstrates that Coetzee’s work offers an important prehistory of our contemporary Digital Humanities moment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 80-111
Number of pages32
JournalContemporary Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2018


  • Computation
  • Biometrics
  • aesthetic autonomy
  • J. M. Coetzee
  • Apartheid
  • Life & Times of Michael K


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