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This essay looks to J. M. Coetzee’s oeuvre and especially his recent The Childhood of Jesus to examine key features of critique as a method of textual analysis. In so doing, the essay considers how critique-based theory has also shaped recent developments in the novel as a form. Coetzee represents one of the most acclaimed living novelists, and dominant approaches to interpreting his novels can therefore illumine both the value of critique and certain of its limits. Coetzee’s frequent enlistment of allegory in particular encourages reliance on critique as a mechanism of decipherment and decoding, and this essay raises a series of questions about such analytic methods.

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