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'Permanent Parabasis': Beckettian Irony in the Work of Paul Auster, John Banville and J.M. Coetzee

Springer, Michael (2014) 'Permanent Parabasis': Beckettian Irony in the Work of Paul Auster, John Banville and J.M. Coetzee. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis considers the influence of the writing of Samuel Beckett on that of Paul Auster, John Banville and J.M. Coetzee through the lens of Romantic irony, as formulated by Friedrich Schlegel and, later, Paul de Man. The broad argument is that the form of irony first articulated by the Jena Romantics is brought in Beckett’s work to something of an extreme, and that this extremity represents both one of his most characteristic achievements and a unique and specifically troublesome challenge for those who come after him. The thesis hence explores how Auster, Banville and Coetzee respond to and negotiate this irony in their own work, and contrasts their respective responses. Put briefly, I find that all three writers to one extent or another deflect Beckett’s irony, while engaging with it: Auster adopts certain stylistic and structural aspects of Beckett’s work, but on the whole reaches fundamentally different epistemological and existential conclusions; Banville engages closely with the epistemological and existential challenge posed by Beckett’s irony, and attempts to balance this with a contrasting sense of the capacity of art and the imagination to make meaning of the world; and Coetzee, after an initial attempt at stylistic imitation, moves away from this but remains fundamentally influenced by certain insights into subjectivity and ethical relation he derives from Beckett’s work. Of Auster’s work, I consider most closely ‘White Spaces’ and The New York Trilogy, arguing that the former represents a transitional development toward the tone, perspective and voice of the latter; of Banville’s, Doctor Copernicus and Eclipse, contrasting the former’s confidence in human capacities for knowledge of the world and the self with the latter’s more Beckettian skepticism and disenchantment; and of Coetzee’s, In the Heart of the Country with Waiting for the Barbarians, showing how the latter abandons the former’s marked Beckettian stylistic traces while continuing to evidence the influence of Beckett’s work in the depiction of matters such as subjectivity, language and interpersonal relation. By way of conclusion, I consider how such later writing might reshape or alter our understanding of Beckett’s work, and propose directions for further research into the place of Romantic irony in Modern and contemporary fiction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Mr Michael Springer
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2014 11:24
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2016 01:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7031

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