Access Type

Online access to this book is restricted to the University of Kentucky community.

Files

Download

Download Full Text (4.3 MB)

Description

Samuel Beckett’s work harbors an inevitable complicity with traditional modes and values. His idealist and even nihilist inclinations, for example, are closely related to the abstracting and systematizing tendencies that have predominated in Western thinking. His drama and fiction, in reproducing these tendencies, also help to reinforce and legitimate them. Beckett’s work can thus be said to encourage an attitude of stoic resignation or life-denying withdrawal.

Sylvie Debevec Henning’s study reveals an important countertendency. In examining Beckett’s art and literary criticism, his novel Murphy, plays Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame, his only film venture, and the late story "The Lost Ones," she shows that through a variety of double-voiced techniques—irony, parody, and satire—Beckett also brings a powerful critical light to bear upon our culture’s repeated attempts to reduce or eliminate the more problematic aspects of existence and even mocks our desire to do so. His disquieting and occasionally uproarious interweaving of contradictory perspectives—somber and carnivalized, established and contestory—suggests that suffering and anguish are fundamental to life, while it affirms their relation to laughter and creative vigor within a richer, if less settled, cultural context.

Drawing upon the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, and particularly Bakhtin, Henning argues that Beckett’s profound critique of Western intellectual tradition does not necessarily entail the loss of all positive values and beliefs. On the contrary, his use of carnivalesque and dialogized modes signals a revitalizing capacity that has not been fully appreciated.

Winner of the Midwest MLA Book Award

Sylvie Debevic Henning, associate professor of French at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh, is the author of Genet's Ritual Play.

"A thoughtful and challenging study."—Choice

"Ingenious and enlightening."—Journal of Modern Literature

"Elegantly written, sophisticated, and readable, it brings new insights to the existing Beckett scholarship."—Studies in Twentieth Century Literature

Publication Date

1988

Publisher

The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY

ISBN

9780813116648

eISBN

9780813158600

Keywords

Samuel Beckett

Disciplines

Literature in English, British Isles

Beckett's Critical Complicity: Carnival, Contestation, and Tradition
Read Sample Off-campus Download

Share

COinS