The Sayings and Missayings of Samuel Beckett: Literature, Writing, and Method

Part of the Comparative Philosophy of Religion book series (COPR, volume 1)


Samuel Beckett’s late prose work Worstward Ho draws attention to the fact of its own coming into being as a literary text and thus raises questions about the origin of the literary utterance, the limitations of literary fiction’s ability to predicate, and the authority according to which meaning is derived from literature. The study of Worstward Ho calls for an “apophatic criticism” to match the negations and reductions of the text itself, which already performs a kind of self-criticism—to the extent that Worstward Ho can be said to be “about” anything, it is about the impossibility of its own having been written. In this sense, Beckett’s work proves useful in analyzing similar questions as they pertain to other special uses of language, particularly in the philosophical discourse around ineffability and constating the divine. Acknowledging the availability of Beckett’s prose as a resource for investigating questions of the subject and its relation to language and experience, this essay nevertheless focuses on the way Beckett’s prose thematizes issues of speech, writing, and interpretation in and from within specifically literary modalities, arguing, finally, that Beckett’s writing suggests the constitutive impossibility of literary representation as anything other than self-representation. Emerging from such a reading is a sense not of the text’s final or complete meaning, but rather an experience of play, both in the sense of the ludic and in the sense of literary meaning’s inherent fluidity and dynamism.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Drake UniversityDes MoinesUSA

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