Beckett’s Company, Post-structuralism, and Mimetalogique

  • Ed Jewinski

Abstract

Beckett, in his novels and plays, has constantly questioned the adequacy of the human imagination. In the Unnamable, for example, the narrator recognises the possibility that the imagination may soon ‘die’ and that there will be no more characters with which to while away the time. In Malone Dies Malone voices a related fear: ‘perhaps as hitherto I shall find myself abandoned, in the dark, without anything to play with’.1 In Imagination Dead Imagine, the predicted circumstance seems to come true — the imagination is no longer strong enough, or vigorous enough, to do anything more than sustain man at the most elemental level.2 Finally, the possible death of the imagination seems most fully developed in Company, for in this work there is no ‘character’ who can ‘imagine’ himself. As in Not I, the ‘content’ of the work is the mere presence of ‘voice’ reluctantly talking itself into Being, although in Company the mouth from which the voice emanates has disappeared into darkness. In his later works particularly, Beckett seems to be playing or toying with the paradoxical questions of what a human might ‘imagine’ in a world in which no human can successfully give an adequate ‘imagine’ to himself. In part, then, Beckett’s Company puts into question one of the most celebrated values of literature — the power of the imagination. This is not surprising, for, as one reads Beckett's works in sequence, one might view this writer's work as a sustained series of efforts to deprive the protagonists of attributes and possessions which are inessential to the core question of how Beings imagine themselves.

Keywords

Coherence Crest Blindness Alan Malone 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Samuel Beckett, Three Novels (New York: Grove Press, 1965), p. 180.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Samuel Beckett, Company (New York: Grove Press, 1980), p. 46. Hereafter citations to this text are parenthetically included in the body of the essay.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Samuel Beckett, First Love and Other Stories (New York: Grove Press, 1973), p. 49.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Jacques Derrida, Positions, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1981), p. 6. Hereafter citations to this text are parenthetically inserted in the body of the essay.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Paul de Man, ‘Nietzsche’s Theory of Rhetoric’, Symposium, Spring 1974, Number 28, p. 35.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Jacques Derrida, ‘Structure, Sign, Play’ in The Structuralist Controversy, ed. by Richard Macksey and Eugene Donato (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1972), p. 272.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Samuel Beckett, Three Novels (New York: Grove Press, 1965), The Unnamable, p. 386.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Jacques Lacan, Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis, trans. Anthony Wilden (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968), pp. 215–18.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1963), p. 75.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Richard N. Coe, ‘Beckett’s English’, in Samuel Beckett: Humanistic Perspectives ed. by Morris Beja, S. E. Gontarski and Pierre Astier (Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1983), p. 38.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ed Jewinski

There are no affiliations available

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