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Empire's WakePostcolonial Irish Writing and the Politics of Modern Literary Form$
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Mark Quigley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823245444

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823245444.001.0001

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Unnaming the Subject: Samuel Beckett and Postcolonial Absence

Unnaming the Subject: Samuel Beckett and Postcolonial Absence

(p.122) Chapter Three Unnaming the Subject: Samuel Beckett and Postcolonial Absence
Empire's Wake

Mark Quigley

Fordham University Press

This chapter builds on recent scholarship exploring the historical and material dimensions of Beckett’s thought and aesthetics, especially as they relate to postcoloniality and the geopolitical re-alignments of the post-World War II era. Focusing particularly on his essays and his 1950s novel “trilogy,” the chapter examines how Beckett develops a radically new vision of the novel as part of a crucially important critique of subjectivity that marks the transition between late-modernist and postmodernist aesthetics. Tracing the relationship between this transition and a broader shift within postcoloniality from an era of late-imperial nationalisms to one of an incipient globalization, the chapter considers how Beckett’s handling of form helps bring into relief distinct phases of postcoloniality that are often blurred together. At the same time, the chapter illuminates how Beckett’s unrelenting inscription of absence at the heart of twentieth-century literary aesthetics constitutes part of a broader initiative within Irish late modernism that encompasses the spare accounts of the Blasket Island writers along with Beckett’s more well-known engagements with Joyce and Irish modernist poetry.

Keywords:   Samuel Beckett, Postcolonial Beckett, Irish Beckett, Beckett and subjectivity, Beckett trilogy, The Unnameable, Beckett and the form of the novel, James Joyce, Late modernism, Postmodernism

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