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Title: Vox Manet: Samuel Beckett’s Novels of Possession and Dispossession, 1938–1955
Authors: Kenny, Eva
Advisors: Heller-Roazen, Daniel
DiBattista, Maria
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Beckett
Conceptual Art
Minimal art
Rosalind Krauss
Subjects: Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: ABSTRACT This dissertation examines possession and dispossession in Samuel Beckett’s novels and prose texts, from his English-language novel Murphy, published in 1938, to the end of the series of novels comprising Watt, Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable and the short Texts for Nothing, published in 1955. The first chapter, “Echo’s Bones,” is concerned with possession. It examines Beckett’s translations of surrealist poetry and prose in the early 1930s for a special issue, edited by André Breton, of the Paris magazine This Quarter. The surrealist use of automatic writing, represented here in particular by a set of texts called Les Possessions, made a huge impression on Beckett, and I argue that his curiously old-fashioned translation of these texts emphasized the surrealist reliance on the clinical methods of nineteenth-century French psychiatry, particularly those associated with so-called degeneracy. In Chapter Two, “Were Turned to Stone,” on dispossession, I argue that Beckett wrote Watt and the Three Novels as if “possessed,” under the aegis of this surrealist preoccupation with automatic, spontaneous text, and wrote Watt and the French-language novels as a self-styled degenerate, using linguistic impediments, tics and repetitions in order to address the dispossession of the Anglo-Irish literary tradition after Irish Independence. This is done in the Three Novels by means of an increasing attention to emblematic objects – the stone, the stick, the pencil – and their loss and disappearance, until, at the end of The Unnamable, “only a voice remains.” Chapter Three, “Vox Manet,” shows how these novels therefore allowed American artists and art historians to narrate another dispossession, the so-called dematerialization of the artwork, from the object-focused Minimal Art to language-based Conceptual Art, in the 1960s and 1970s in New York.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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