ABSTRACT Samuel Beckett's Late A by fjhuangjun



                                   Samuel Beckett’s
                          Late Aesthetics of Subjectivation


                                      LIE Jianxi

                                Doctor of Philosophy

       No other writer has explored so metaphysically the problem of human
existence as Samuel Beckett, the Irish writer who first gained world renown in 1953
with the formal radicalism and existential angst of Waiting for Godot. In the bleakest
forms, Beckett has denied human experience the most fundamental of all
certainties – subjectivity and self-consciousness – and exposed conventional
realism’s inability to convey the ungovernable flux of the world and the individual’s
unfixed, subjective response.
       Taking Beckett’s manipulation of pronominal, spatial and temporal deixis as
an entry point, this thesis captures the late works in its central dilemma of Beckettian
poetics: the inability to end. For Beckett, ending, or silence, is at the same time the
premise and also the vanishing point. In the literary arts the withdrawal into an inner
space beyond speech, where the subject is absent, can never be completely successful:
silence, ending in the absolute sense, remains an imaginary limit. Beckett strikes his
vital poetic sparks off this aporia, in as much as his method of writing is
characterized by attempts towards a self-conscious paradox. Consequently he aims to
turn the impossibility (after a critical creative impasse after the Trilogy of novels) –
and the inevitability – of a linguistic constitution of meaning back into linguistic
form. A ‘solution’ to the problem is, of course, unthinkable. The literary
object/subject is thus condemned to a permanent oscillation between the rooted-ness
of the art form in language, and the disavowal of that rooted-ness.
       Instead of viewing his work as motivated by ambitions in the philosophy of
language, the present thesis approaches it as an attempt to shore up a language whose
progressive extinction had been the constant companion of Beckett’s life as a writer.
Relating his late work to his early aesthetic views, the thesis seeks to show, on the
one hand, that Beckett’s late work does not constitute a break from his early writings
as they seem at first sight. Instead, they as whole witness the maturation of the
writer’s aesthetics. On the other hand, drawing on a variety of performance, language
and psychoanalytic theories, the thesis argues that subjectivity in late Beckett exists
only as the experience of language, as the marks that the movement of language has
left on the text or on us, in us, the reader, as we turn our attention towards the
indecisive stirrings of language.

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