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The Imperative to WriteDestitutions of the Sublime in Kafka, Blanchot and Beckett$
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Jeff Fort

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823254699

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823254699.001.0001

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Beckett’s Voices and the Paradox of Expression

Beckett’s Voices and the Paradox of Expression

(p.293) Chapter 8 Beckett’s Voices and the Paradox of Expression
The Imperative to Write

Jeff Fort

Fordham University Press

This chapter analyzes a fundamental paradox that cuts across Beckett’s corpus, in which the impossibility of expression is doubled by the equally insistent inevitability of expression. Both sides of this paradox are laid out in reference to texts in which the first person voice, while progressively attenuated and stripped of every narrative resource, nonetheless continues to speak in a language from which it cannot eliminate a singular past, its own having been. In readings of Beckett’s postwar novels (Mercier and Camier, Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable), against the background of the manifesto type statements in “Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit,” it is shown that the obtrusive insistence of this singular past constitutes its own pointed but empty imperative to speak, one that continually shades into sheer compulsion. The lyricism of these texts reveals a stubborn melancholy attachment to past time, indeed a deep sentimentality, that is undermined, but not dissolved, by Beckett’s irony, and by formal procedures such as the use of pronouns (as discussed by Emile Benveniste). The narrative voice, in its lyricism and derision, is the tortured locus of these incompatible but ineliminable structural tendencies.

Keywords:   Samuel Beckett, Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit, Mercier and Camier, Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable, lyricism, sentimentality, Emile Benveniste, pronouns

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