Age of Iron as a Cultural Text: The Question of Apartheid and the Body

  •  Shadi Neimneh    
  •  Marwan Obeidat    


This paper examines the interrelationship between the body and politics in J. M. Coetzee's 1990 novel Age of
Iron from a cultural studies stand-point. Coetzee uses cancer as a trope for apartheid by way of suggesting the
obscenity and fatality of such a system of segregation. Mrs. Curren, dying of cancer, metaphorically stands for
the social and cultural cancer of South Africa under apartheid. Coetzee's work, our argument is, turns out to be
relevant not only because of its approach to the socio-historical realities of South Africa under apartheid, but
because of its cultural conception of the body within a postmodern frame. The body is metaphorically treated as
a trope for the body politic. This way, Coetzee establishes a strong relationship between the body and a
postmodern, popular culture whereby the body becomes a text inscribed with cultural meanings and serving
sociopolitical ends. Against Susan Sontag’s argument that illness is not a metaphor and that metaphoric thinking
is not healthy for the sick in her book Illness as Metaphor, we argue that metaphoric thinking about illness,
untruthful as it might be, is still an apt means of sociopolitical commentary since we look at cancer and other
diseases through an unavoidable metaphorical lens.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1925-4768
  • ISSN(Online): 1925-4776
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: quarterly

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