Nothing' has been at the centre of Samuel Beckett's reception and scholarship from its inception. This book explains how the Beckett oeuvre, through its paradoxical fidelity to nothing, produces critical approaches which aspire to putting an end to interpretation: in this instance, the issues of authority, intertextuality and context, which this book tackles via 'nothing'. By retracing the history of Beckett studies through 'nothing', it theorises a future for the study of Beckett's legacies and is interested in the constant problem of value in the oeuvre. Through the relation between Beckett and nothing, the relation between voice and stone in Jean-Paul Sartre and Beckett, we are reminded precisely of the importance of the history of an idea, even the ideas of context, influence, and history. The book looks at something that has remained a 'nothing' within the Beckett canon so far: his doodles as they appear in the Human Wishes manuscript. It also looks at the material history of televisual production and places the aesthetic concerns of Beckett's television plays. The book then discusses the nexus between nothing and silence in order to analyse the specific relations between music, sound, and hearing. It talks about the history of materiality through that of neurology and brings the two into a dialogue sustained by Beckett texts, letters and notebooks. The book investigates the role of nothing through three works called neither and Neither: Beckett's short text, Morton Feldman's opera, and Doris Salcedo's sculptural installation.
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.
On 21 April 1958 Samuel Beckett writes to Thomas MacGreevy about having written a short stage dialogue to accompany the London production of Endgame. A fragment of a dramatic dialogue, paradoxically entitled Last Soliloquy, has been identified as being the play in question. It is tempting to read Last Soliloquy as such a caricature, as if Beckett were following his own suggestions for the staging of a 'text for nothing', doomed, for reasons different from those of Joseph Chaikin, to be in turn rejected and jettisoned. The all-controlling eye of the invisible author, able to tell the difference between 'what not' and 'not what' in the soliloquy even if nobody else can, is both a comic and a serious staging of one of the main paradoxes of the Beckett canon. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.
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’.