This essay considers the abstract aesthetics of J. M. Coetzee's Jesus trilogy—The Childhood of Jesus, The Schooldays of Jesus, and The Death of Jesus—as emphasizing the pertinence of the religious in terms of a rupturing of an ontotheological vision of the world. It analyzes Coetzee's employment of religious allegory in the trilogy as a commentary on the birth of religious consciousness that finds its ultimate meaning in an opening out of hermetic experience toward social community and unthematizable singularity. Using Jean-Luc Nancy's ideas of Christianity as a deconstructive event and the ecstatic sense of the world, this essay traces the thematic cohesion of the trilogy in terms of an understanding of divinity that provides an atheological grounding of phenomenological sense. This reading not only emphasizes Coetzee's turn toward a “leaner” style in his late writing as the mark of a unique novelistic outlook toward the pertinence of transcendence in a postsecular world, but also engages with previous readings of allegory in Coetzee's work to posit a different understanding of allegory to be a conscious textual choice that both separates and ties together “fallen” temporality and the redemptive potentialities of literature, resulting in a sense of reality that stubbornly leads outside of it.

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