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

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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.

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Author Biography

Camille Nurka, University of Melbourne

Camille Nurka is a sessional lecturer and tutor in the Gender Studies program at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include postfeminism in popular culture and, more recently, the female body in public, the gendering of emotion and female genital cosmetic surgery. She is also conducting a research project that aims to survey Australian women’s attitudes toward their genitals.