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"One Glimpse and Vanished": The Limits of Representation in Samuel Beckett's Criticism and Fiction

Lawrence, Tim (2015) "One Glimpse and Vanished": The Limits of Representation in Samuel Beckett's Criticism and Fiction. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis examines how philosophical influence shaped the representation of vision in Beckett’s critical writing and fiction. In order to undertake this analysis, I draw on trends within Beckett studies, especially those focused on the relationship between Beckett and phenomenology, while also seeking to draw on textual and rhetorical approaches from outside Beckett studies. Beckett’s writing and thinking on visual art are examined in detail, and it is argued that Beckett’s essays were crucial to the development of his literary aesthetic. This thesis examines how Beckett’s use of the figural suggests an implicit philosophical perspective, grounded in concerns about the status and nature of representation. It details these philosophical traces in Beckett’s writing in relation to theories of art, perception and consciousness with which Beckett is known to have engaged. The first chapter focuses on the Kantian philosophical tradition and its manifestations in Beckett’s essay Proust (1931) and his novel Murphy (1938), before considering their relationship to Beckett’s novel Watt (1945) and the essays written in the immediate post-war period, such as “Peintres de l’empêchement” (1948). The second chapter considers affinities between these works and Surrealism, focusing on the relationship between the visual and philosophical in Surrealism. Chapter three considers the role of other reflections on the visual and figural, including Wassily Kandinsky’s writing on art, while it documents Beckett’s work alongside the art critic Georges Duthuit on the review Transition (1948-50). Drawing on these discourses, the theme of the dissolving figure in Watt and Beckett’s novellas, such as Premier amour (1946), is considered in relation to interests in visualising the limits of representation. Chapter four considers the role played by the limit and limit-states in Beckett’s later prose, moving from L’Innommable (1953) to the short “residua” gathered in the collections Têtes-mortes and Foirades, by way of a dialogue between Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophies. I end by suggesting that a thematic continuity grounded in the interplay between representation, perception and consciousness underpins the changes in the role played by the visual and figural as Beckett’s prose style developed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.682331
Depositing User: Mr Tim Lawrence
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2016 16:15
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12357

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