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Modern Literature Commons

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Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America

Old Dominion University

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Full-Text Articles in Modern Literature

Dialogical Numbers: Counting Humanimal Pain In J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, Mike Piero Jan 2018

Dialogical Numbers: Counting Humanimal Pain In J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, Mike Piero

English Faculty Publications

This essay argues that J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello stages numerical sequences strategically, dialogically, and parodically in order to call attention to the ideological weight involved in counting. Focusing on how one counts - and accounts for - human and nonhuman animal pain, I contend that the repetition of numbers in the novel works to subvert the neoliberal faith put in numbers, quantification, and data. Without succumbing to some religious-mystical numerology, this reading attempts to expose the fiction involved in the act of counting and the need to pay more attention to numerical discourse in literary fiction. In tracking these numbers ...