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Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification$
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Neil Levi

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255061

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255061.001.0001

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The Labor of Late Modernist Poetics

The Labor of Late Modernist Poetics

Beckett after Céline

(p.170) Six The Labor of Late Modernist Poetics
Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

Neil Levi

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines the place of an individual character's name in Samuel Beckett's Molloy and its significance for understanding the distinctive formal features of his postwar prose. The name Youdi is generally acknowledged in Beckett criticism to be an anti-Semitic slang name for a Jew. Yet as a rule, that meaning is no sooner acknowledged than disavowed. The chapter asks: what if we take that anti-Semitic meaning seriously? Beckett writes Molloy immediately after the Second World War and in the wake of a deep engagement with the work of the French novelist and notorious antisemite Louis-Ferdinand Céline, whose anti-Jewish writings explicitly invoke and elaborate upon the paranoid fantasy of Judaization. It is argued that we can read the narrative function of the antisemitic slang name in Molloy as a way for Beckett to present his own poetics as a negation and working through of the antisemitic mode of interpreting the subject's place in the world: the birth of Beckett's style, that is, out of the negation of the spirit of antisemitism.

Keywords:   Samuel Beckett, Molloy, antisemitism, Jews, Louis-Ferdinand Céline

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