“I Become Shameless as a Child”: Childhood, Femininity and Older Age in J.M. Coetzee’s Age of Iron

  • Antoinette Pretorius


This chapter argues that in Age of Iron, J.M. Coetzee subverts the notion of dependency associated with the concepts of childhood, femininity and older age and thus releases his elderly female protagonist from the enervation conventionally associated with senescence. This is achieved by inscribing the aged female body with images of childhood that disrupt the hegemonic flow of sequential, linear time. Instead, the novel posits that both childhood and older age could be read as mutable signs that resist the inscription of rigid social meanings. In the context of South Africa’s transition to democracy, the elderly female body could be seen as representative of the irony underlying the complex, paradoxical tensions governing societal change and the impetus towards ideologies centred on newness and youthfulness.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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