Beckett and Joyce: Two Nattering Nabobs of Negativity

  • Sam Slote
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


The ‘Penelope’ episode of Ulysses and the concluding pages of How It Is—two texts bereft of punctuation—are peppered with yeses. In ‘Penelope’, these yeses take the force of punctuation by suggesting logical and syntactic connections between the fragmentary phrases they interpose upon. Through the weight of their accumulation they also suggest—as per Derrida’s argument in ‘Ulysses gramophone’—an affirmation of the very possibility of affirmation. However, such affirmation of affirmation necessarily includes a negative moment. In this, ‘Penelope’ is very close to The Unnamable in that both texts present us with multiple, incommensurable fragments of ratiocination that asymptotically tend towards a silence that never quite comes within the interval of speaking. My essay will argue how the yeses that conclude How It Is ambiguate or intertwine the categories of affirmation and negation and show how affirmation becomes coterminous with denial.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sam Slote
    • 1
  1. 1.Trinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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