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Into the Breach

Into the Breach: Samuel Beckett and the Ends of Literature

Thomas Trezise
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 188
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  • Book Info
    Into the Breach
    Book Description:

    Arguing that Beckett's understanding of subjectivity cannot be reduced to that of phenomenology or existential humanism, Thomas Trezise offers a major reinterpretation of Beckett in light of Freud and such post-modernists as Bataille, Blanchot, and Derrida. Through extended comparisons of Beckett's trilogy of novels with the writings of these thinkers, he emphasizes a "general economy" of signification that both produces and dispossesses the phenomenological self. Trezise shows how Beckett's work defines literature as an instance within this economy and in so doing challenges traditional conceptions of literature itself and of the subject.

    The undoing of historical time in an abyssal repetition, the involvement of the subject with an impersonal alterity, the priority of error, the understanding of art as an inspired failure--at once an impossibility and an imperative rather than an act of freedom and power--all underscore Beckett's contribution to a form of thought radically irreducible to phenomenology as well as to existential humanism. Trezise suggests that Beckett's own literary corpus be considered an exploration of the breach that this artistic failure opens in traditional philosophical approaches to the human subject.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6135-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction THE BREACH
    (pp. 3-33)

    Between 1946 and 1951, Samuel Beckett composed the novelMercier et Camierand the short story “Premier amour,” both withheld from publication until 1970; the playEleuthéria,which remains unpublished to this day, as well as the play that first earned him widespread public recognition,En attendant Godot; the stories and texts later collected inNouvelles et textes pour rien; and the so-called trilogy of novels (Molloy, Malone meurt, L’Innommable), which he would subsequently call “toute mon oeuvre”¹ and on which the present study will focus.² What seems initially most remarkable about this period, which encompasses the legendary “siege in...

  5. Chapter One DISPOSSESSION
    (pp. 34-65)

    The problem of time has suffered a rather ignominious fate in the canon of Beckett criticism because its study, when undertaken at all, has either been confined to a squarely phenomenological perspective or, which is most often the case, remained philosophically uninformed.¹ It is for this reason that the reading here proposed, which will focus on the second part ofMolloyconsidered as a temporal paradigm for the trilogy as a whole, begins by reviewing and expanding the concept of supplementarity discussed briefly in the introduction. Although it certainly goes against the grain of a literary criticism that, jealous of...

  6. Chapter Two IMPERSONALITY
    (pp. 66-121)

    In the introduction to this study, I suggested that temporality and intersubjectivity represent the Scylla and Charybdis of phenomenology. In the first chapter, I attempted to state how, inMolloy,the “origin” of the trilogy, as well as inMalone DiesandThe Unnamable,the temporality of signification dispossesses the historical time of the first person, and alluded to the pre-originary impersonality of the first person itself. It would do well therefore to begin here by recalling that dispossession, by reason of which the first person, the for-itself or subject originates only as the belated repetition of its pre-originary difference...

  7. Chapter Three ERROR
    (pp. 122-159)

    Among the many problems encountered by the reader of Samuel Beckett’s trilogy, the problem of space is undoubtedly one of the more complex and formidable. While the present chapter will not venture to provide an exhaustive explication of this problem, one can safely say that the approach to it has by now been quite thoroughly prepared; for as both the introduction and subsequent chapters attest, it is impossible to account for the temporal and intersubjective dispossession of subjectivity as separation without referring to the spatiality on whose phenomenological reduction subjectivity so understood is, after all, explicitly founded. In fact, the...

    (pp. 160-170)

    The present study has attempted to show how Samuel Beckett defines the “subject of literature” in terms of a general economy of signification that conditions and exceeds the universe of phenomenology. By problematizing what is both thearchēand thetelosof this universe, namely, separation, Beckett’s work—and most notably his trilogy of novels—raises even today the very questions most intensely debated at the time of the trilogy’s composition. I refer of course to the question of the ends of literature as well as to the more general but closely related question of the ends of humanity. That...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 171-176)