How is Coetzee's style reflected in his novel Disgrace?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Coetzee's work often can be described as either meta-fiction or allegory, and sometimes both. In this novel, Coetzee moves away from allegory but employs his style of meta-fiction in two signficant ways. 

Despite a shift in terms of "categorical style" in moving away from allegory, Coetzee continues to employ representative situations that function almost symbolically. 

Moments that are repeatedly reviewed and analyzed in the narrative become representative episodes, dealing with the moral complexity of a world where guilt is both a choice and an unavoidable consequence of being an actor or agent in the world. (This theme is present in much of Coetzee's work.)

Additionally, Disgrace continues Coetzee's interest in questions authorship and authority (a facet of meta-fiction) in the exploration of how to intepret the meaning of the rape of Lurie's daughter.

...she refuses to view her robbery and rape in the same way as her father and the rest of society.

This notion is also explored in the accusations made against Lurie that lead to his termination at the university, where his version of the story of his relationship with his student loses precedence to the student's version. 

Questions of who has the right to tell certain stories are reflected in the opera, an aspect of Coetzee's stylistic choice of meta-fiction. 

Coetzee uses the opera to allow Lurie's change to manifest through his approach to the opera and its conception.

To be clear, meta-fiction describes fiction writing that directly concerns the nature of writing, of authorship, authority, and related concepts. Also, meta-fiction, as a term, describes fiction that features "stories within stories". In this novel, Lurie's opera presents a clear example of this aspect of meta-fiction.