Into the Breach: Samuel Beckett and the ends of literature

October 30, 2020
Into the Breach: Samuel Beckett and the ends of literature

Arguing that Beckett's understanding of subjectivity cannot bereduced to that of phenomenology or existential humanism, ThomasTrezise offers a major reinterpretation of Beckett in light ofFreud and such post-modernists as Bataille, Blanchot, and Derrida.Through extended comparisons of Beckett's trilogy of novels withthe writings of these thinkers, he emphasizes a "general economy"of signification that both produces and dispossesses thephenomenological self. Trezise shows how Beckett's work definesliterature as an instance within this economy and in so doingchallenges traditional conceptions of literature itself and of thesubject.The undoing of historical time in an abyssal repetition, theinvolvement of the subject with an impersonal alterity, thepriority of error, the understanding of art as an inspiredfailure--at once an impossibility and an imperative rather than anact of freedom and power--all underscore Beckett's contribution toa form of thought radically irreducible to phenomenology as well asto existential humanism. Trezise suggests that Beckett's ownliterary corpus be considered an exploration of the breach thatthis artistic failure opens in traditional philosophical approachesto the human subject.