Feminine Shame/Masculine Disgrace: A Literary Excursion through Gender and Embodied Emotion

Camille Nurka


This paper seeks a disarticulation of shame and disgrace, and hypothesises that there is a gendered cultural articulation of the two terms at work that runs counter to the normative understanding of their symbiotic unity. Specifically, I argue that the primary difference is that where shame is embodied, or an emotion fundamentally of the body, disgrace is facialised and thus able to rid itself of the body in its capacity as the privileged representative of the face. I turn to literature—using JM Coetzee’s novel Disgrace (1999) as my example—both to elucidate this distinction and to argue that the meanings of shame and disgrace diverge noticeably when the two terms come into contact with gender. As a consequence, the paper will contend that the book’s dominant narrative of racial reconciliation is in fact articulated through sexually distinct shamed positionalities.


Shame; disgrace; gender; Coetzee; emotion

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/csr.v18i3.2482