Beckett's Creatures Art of Failure after the Holocaust

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2016-05-05
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama

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In the shadow of the Holocaust, Samuel Beckett captures humanity in ruins through his debased beings and a decomposing mode of writing that strives to 'fail better'. But what might it mean to be a 'creature' or 'creaturely' in Beckett's world? In the first full-length study of the concept of the creature in Beckett's prose and drama, this book traces the suspended lives and melancholic existences of Beckett's ignorant and impotent creatures to assess the extent to which political value marks the divide between human and inhuman.

Through close readings of Beckett's prose and drama, particularly texts from the middle period, including Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable, Waiting for Godot and Endgame, Anderton explicates four arenas of creaturely life in Beckett. Each chapter attends to a particular theme – testimony, power, humour and survival – to analyse a range of pressures and impositions that precipitate the creaturely state of suspension.

Drawing on the writings of Adorno, Agamben, Benjamin, Deleuze and Derrida to explore the overlaps between artistic and political structures of creation, the creature emerges as an in-between figure that bespeaks the provisional nature of the human. The result is a provocative examination of the indirect relationship between art and history through Beckett's treatment of testimony, power, humour and survival, which each attest to the destabilisation of meaning after Auschwitz.

Author Biography

Joseph Anderton is Assistant Professor in Drama and Performance at the University of Nottingham, UK. He is author of the chapter 'Hooves! The Equine Presence in Beckett' in Beckett and Animals (2013) and has reviewed for The Journal of Beckett Studies and The Journal of European Humour Research.

Table of Contents

What is a Beckettian Creature?
Last Human and Becoming-Animal
Concepts of the Creature and Creaturely Life
Beckett After 1945

Chapter 1: Testimony: Bearing Witness to the Event and Self
'Impossibility of Expressing': Art of Failure and Lacuna of Testimony
Fallibility and Dissociation
(In)sovereign Author-Narrators
Obligation to Testify: Mechanics, Enunciation, Ruins
Testimony of Fiction

Chapter 2: Power: Master-Servant Relationships
Exercising Writing: Fascist Regime Against Liberal Art
Watt the Fungible and Knott There: Objectified Servant and Absent Master
'A vague supplication': Melancholy in Waiting for Godot
Master-Servant Context: The Holocaust and the Jewish Creature
Biopolitical Struggles: Territory and Custody

Chapter 3: Humour: Failure and Degradation
Humour in Failure
Textual Performances
Words and Flesh in Endgame
Metanarrative Tragicomedy
'turd waiting for the flush': Gallows Humour

Chapter 4: Survival: Incompleteness and Continuation
'oh all to end': Beckettian Stirrings Still
Creaturely 'Undeadness'
Repetition and Performance
Forms of Activity and Stasis in Molloy
'finish dying': Death Without Death in Molloy

6. Epilogue

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