The paradox of self-annihilating expression : representations of ontological instability in the drama of Samuel Beckett
Lawley, Paul Anthony, Ph.D. (1978) The paradox of self-annihilating expression : representations of ontological instability in the drama of Samuel Beckett. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b1750459~S15
One of the central critical problems about Beckett - how can we
praise without feeling uneasy the work of an artist for whom "to
be an artist is to fail"? - parallels the creative predicament
of a writer whose "art of failure" can only exist in an inherently
expressive medium. How can an art which is anti-art remain true
to itself? Is a truly self-annihilating expression possible?
Two perspectives on the problem are opened. The first is theoretical:
a consideration of the Duthuit Dialogues confirms that Beckett refuses
to countenance an art which survives by making artistic
failure itself the occasion of artistic creation. Rather he "dreams"
of a genuine "art of failure": without occasion, in-expressive and
indefinable. The second perspective (itself suggested by Beckett's
critical tendency in the Duthuit Dialogues) is literary-historical:
pertinent Romantic, nineteenth-century and Modernist attitudes
towards artistic failure are outlined and briefly considered. Such
a consideration serves both to define the particular (and unique)
nature of Beckett's response to what may be seen as a traditional
Romantic and Modernist problem, and to confirm the essentially
ontological nature of what Beckett sees as the creative "obligation".
(Failure to create as failure to be.)
The Beckettian creative predicament is thus considered next in terms
of individual identity, by way of the recurring motif of the
"imperfect birth", and the paradoxical quality of Beckett's response
to his creative problem is most clearly seen in the theatre, where he
needs to represent degrees of ontological absence in what has been
seen as the medium of "presence".
Studies of the individual plays show that Beckett's method is to
exploit the essence of theatre, which is playing, so as to suggest
that the players are never really present, only playing, because
obliged to play, over the void of (their own) identity. In order to
render the creative-ontological situation of the imperfectly born
subject, Beckett seeks to produce, both in the text and the stage-picture
and by a precise counterpointing of the two elements, the
effect of parody presence.
Examination of the plays in chronological order illustrates a
development towards abstraction and an increasing emphasis on shape
and pattern. The central character becomes more and more obviously
a creator and (by the same token) is revealed more and more clearly by
the effect of parody presence as a created being, though imperfectly
created. Thus theatrical presence is undermined and the Beckett play
enacts its own self-annihilation.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||P Language and Literature > PR English literature|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 -- Criticism and interpretation, Failure (Psychology) in art, Drama, Ontology|
|Official Date:||October 1978|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies|
|Supervisor(s)/Advisor:||Bell, Michael, 1941-|
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