Samuel Beckett and trauma is a collection of essays that opens new approaches to Beckett’s literary and theoretical work through the lens of trauma studies. Beginning with biographical and intertextual readings of instances of trauma in Beckett’s works, the essays take up performance studies, philosophical and cultural understanding of post-traumatic subjectivity, and provide new perspectives that will expand and alter current trauma studies. Chapter 1 deals with a whole range of traumatic symptoms in Beckett’s personal experiences which find their ways into a number of his works. Chapter 2 investigates traumatic symptoms experienced by actors on stage. Chapter 3 examines the problem of unspeakability by focusing on the face which illuminates the interface between Beckett’s work and trauma theory. Chapter 4 explores the relationship between trauma and skin – a psychic skin that reveals the ‘force and truth’ of trauma, a force that disrupts the apparatus of representation. Chapter 5 considers trauma caused by a bodily defect such as tinnitus. Chapter 6 focuses on the historically specific psychological structure in which a wounded subject is compelled to stick to ordinary life in the aftermath of some traumatic calamity. Chapter 7 provides a new way of looking at birth trauma by using the term as ‘creaturely life’ that is seen in the recent biopolitical discourses. Chapter 8 speculates on how Beckett’s post-war plays, responding to the nuclear age’s global trauma, resonate with ethical and philosophical thoughts of today’s post-Cold War era.
This study is about the central place of the emotional world in Beckett's writing. Stating that Beckett is ‘primarily about love’, it makes a re-assessment of his influence and immense popularity. The book examines numerous Beckettian texts, arguing that they embody a struggle to remain in contact with a primal sense of internal goodness, one founded on early experience with the mother. Writing itself becomes an internal dialogue, in which the reader is engaged, between a ‘narrative-self’ and a mother.
Ordinary objects in Woolf and Beckett
Trauma and ordinary objects in Virginia
Woolf and SamuelBeckett
Introduction: trauma and everyday life
While trauma studies and everyday life studies may be deemed
two of the most salient trends in literary studies since the 2000s,
they do not often seem to intersect with each other.1 Current
trauma studies began to flourish in the mid-1990s mainly through
deconstructionists’ attempts to re-engage with history, though the
notion of trauma itself was elaborated in psychiatry and psychoanalysis from
‘Void cannot go’Insignificant residues
Insignificant residues: trauma, face and
figure in SamuelBeckett
David Houston Jones
But the faces of the living, all grimace and flush, can they be
described as objects?
SamuelBeckett, First Love
A number of important contributions to trauma theory position SamuelBeckett’s work as a privileged point of reference.
For Robert Eaglestone, the ethical necessity of ‘an ongoing conversation about the Holocaust’ results in ‘a conversation which,
Beckett-like, can’t go on, but must go on’ (2000: 105). Jonathan
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds,
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Till feeling the need for company again he tells himself to call the hearer
M at least. (SamuelBeckett)
It is often said that the opening words of the psychoanalytical session
contain the totality of what is to come. Thinking this true of the
scholarly text, I find myself writing that this study is primarily about
love. This might seem somewhat odd for a reading of Beckett, but I
hope that in what follows the
SamuelBeckett’s vessels, voices and shades
of the absurd
Yes, no more denials, all is false, there is no one, it’s understood, there is
nothing, no more phrases, let us be dupes, dupes of every time and tense,
until it’s done, all past and done, and the voices cease, it’s only voices, only
lies. (SamuelBeckett, Texts for Nothing, 3, 1945–50)
To move wild laughter in the throat of death?’ [Love’s Labour’s Lost, V, 2,
841] precisely sums up the humor of Beckett’s plays. (Hersh Zeifman, 1990)
In the wake of Kafka?
W.G. Sebald (in literary critical mode
Mariko Hori Tanaka, Yoshiki Tajiri and Michiko Tshushima
to ‘memory’ in the 1980s, in part stimulated by the work of Pierre
Nora and David P. Jordan (2009) and Yosef Yerushalmi’s influential book Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (1982).
Michel Foucault, too, invoked a politics of memory and, tracing
this out, Ian Hacking explored what he named ‘memoro-politics’.
This turn to memory involved a rediscovery and translation of
Maurice Halbwachs’s work from the 1920s on collective memory
(Halbwachs was murdered at Buchenwald in 1945). This shift in
SamuelBeckett and trauma
historical discourse seems not only
’ (200) – the sound
Alpaugh, David J. (1973). ‘Embers and the Sea: Beckettian Intimations of
Mortality’, Modern Drama 16.3–4, 317–28.
Beckett, Samuel (2006a). SamuelBeckett, Volume 3: Dramatic Works.
New York: Grove Press.
Beckett, Samuel (2006b). SamuelBeckett: Works for Radio — The Original
Broadcasts. British Library Publishing Division, BBC [Audio CD].
Boulter, Jonathan (2004). ‘Does Mourning Require a Subject? SamuelBeckett’s Texts for Nothing’, Modern Fiction Studies 50.2, 332–50.
Branigan, Kevin (2008). Radio Beckett: Musicality in the
). Beckett Writing Beckett: The Author in the
Autograph. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Adorno, Theodor W. (2001). Metaphysics: Concept and Problems. Ed.
Rolf Tiedemann. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford, CA: Stanford
Barry, Elizabeth (2006). Beckett and Authority: The Uses of Cliché.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Beckett, Samuel (1990). The Complete Dramatic Works. London: Faber
Beckett, Samuel (2011). The Letters of SamuelBeckett 1941–1956. Ed.
George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More
Mourning Require a Subject? SamuelBeckett’s Texts for Nothing’, Boulter suggests that trauma ‘in
relation to Beckett, manages to avoid [the] ghostly metaphysical
haunting, [the] nostalgia for an originary subject and scene of loss’
(2004: 333) which are a central focus of discussions of trauma.
He considers that Beckett’s work ‘avoids this haunting precisely
because the Beckettian narrator is unable to present itself as a
stable, unified (or potentially unified) subject. My interest here
is to explore how trauma and mourning play out in relation to
a subject without