This essay responds to Giorgio Agamben’s call for a renewed interlacing of philosophy and poetry by illustrating how literature can enable philosophy to represent and enjoy its object as well as how philosophy can render literature more conscious of its object. J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace embodies Agamben’s conception of the messianic in three of its dominant guises: the superimposition of the human and the animal, resulting in creaturely life held in the Benjaminian “saved night”; the salvation of the unsavable; and nudity. All three manifestations, as they take shape in Disgrace, give rise to one of Agamben’s central concepts, the Open. Literature here allows philosophy to take on an opaque form of representation that connects it with lived experience and thereby brings about its full vitality. In turn, this essay also demonstrates how to make literary critical use of The Open to illuminate new aspects of Coetzee’s novel.

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