This is a study on the literary relation between Beckett and Dante. It is a reading of Samuel Beckett and Dante's works and a critical engagement with contemporary theories of intertextuality. The book gives a reading of Beckett's work, detecting previously unknown quotations, allusions to, and parodies of Dante in Beckett's fiction and criticism. It is aimed at the scholarly communities interested in literatures in English, literary and critical theory, comparative literature and theory, French literature and theory and Italian studies.
The current absence of a debate around the cultural meanings of body hair within the many existing feminist discussions on the post-capitalist and post-colonial female body would be surprising if it did not reflect how body hair, ‘superfluous’ and ‘unwanted’, is hardly visible. This chapter examines the various meanings of body hair, without taking for granted a dichotomy between natural and artificial – instead looking at its various formations. It looks at a number of texts on the basis of their references to body hair on women; their different claims to modernity; and the common link between hairiness, ‘uncommon’ intelligence and femininity. These works include Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (1859–1860), in which the single mention of the heroine's facial hair marks the eruption of masculinity in the heroine, signalling her potential danger; Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963), where body hair links estrangement and disgust; and The Lady Who Loved Insects, a twelfth-century fragment translated from the Japanese into English by Arthur Waley in 1929.
This introductory chapter considers the inclusion of Dante in Beckett studies, where the former stands out and stands for Samuel Beckett's isolation and greatness. It addresses the main argument of the study, that Dante's presence in Beckett is part of a critique of value and authority, the latter becoming a critical issue when studying the relationships between these two authors. This chapter also identifies the approaches that are focused on quantifying ‘how much Dante’ can be found in Beckett, or on determining how accurate or revealing Beckett's representations of Dante may be.
This chapter discusses an early Beckett essay that fashions a modernist Dante and tries to show how the idea of Dante as the quintessentially classic author has changed over time. The first part of the chapter tries to detect Dante within James Joyce. This chapter also focuses on how Dante's function has changed in the essay Proust. It notes that in Proust, Dante no longer characterises linguistic experimentalism, but instead works as the quotable authority capable of strengthening the intellectual credentials of the writer.
This chapter discusses questions about the possibility of textual stability. It shows that Belacqua, the protagonist of Dream of Fair to Middling Women, is a character and his own critique. It takes note of his artificiality and the process of his fabrication that are constantly foregrounded. This chapter shows that instead of explaining the quirks of Belacqua Shuah, Dante's Belacqua adds to his literariness while taking away from his realism.
This chapter studies More Pricks Than Kicks and the available parodies of and allusions to Dante's lines, which reflect certain passages in Dream and in many other Beckett poems of the time. It also studies the complex web of internal references to Dante, which is one of the ways where Beckett texts are interconnected and comprise themselves into the Beckett oeuvre.
This chapter reassesses the roles of mimesis and authority in both Beckett and Dante from an intertextual point of view. It studies the promise of an invisible Dante, which has been read by critics into Murphy in ways that overlook the puzzling nature of this promise. It shows that it leads to a study of the status of invisible presences and visible absences in Beckett's ghostly oeuvre. This chapter also looks at Dante's visible absence, which is significantly linked to Beckett's poetics of residua, marginality and fragmentariness. It includes a discussion of the ‘Addenda’ section in Watt.
This chapter provides a reading of Mercier et Camier/Mercier and Camier that focuses on how Dante sometimes appears in the French and not in the English self-translated text, and vice versa. It observes how the issues of authority, visibility and invisibility can help assess the role Dante played in Mercier and Camier in relation to both Mercier et Camier and other texts by Beckett. Finally, it considers P. J. Murphy's point that the true ‘pseudocouple’ is the author linked with his two creations, and not Mercier and Camier.
This chapter looks at how the few quotations—and occasionally, sustained allusions—challenge ideas of origin, ending and depth in Novellas and Texts for Nothing. It focuses on English and French titles and quotations, which are prioritised according to the critical focus of the argument instead of the chronology of composition. It considers the calming effects of classic works and shows how the ‘sky’, ‘earth’ and the ‘sea’ are secondary elements that ‘create the armosphere’.
This chapter addresses the argument that How It Is mobilises Inferno VII to produce a notion of reality as the unreliable outcome of repetition. It studies the canto where Virgil translates the incomprehensible gurgling that is coming from the bubbles on the surface of the river Styx into the ‘hymn’ sung by the invisible slothful damned. This discussion shows that this illustrates how ‘credence’ for the reality of such scenes is taken from the quickly diminishing ‘incontrovertibility’ of Virgil's authority. This chapter also shows that the mud in How It Is is what allows the passing of the murmuring and what prevents it.