‘Omniscience and omnipotence’: Molloy and the End of ‘Joyceology’

  • Andy Wimbush
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


This chapter explores how Samuel Beckett’s novel Molloy marked an important shift in Beckett’s aesthetic allegiances, particularly his relationship to his former mentor James Joyce. It argues that he came to see Joyce’s heroic aesthetic as representative of the same fault that he had, in the 1930s, found in the work of nineteenth-century realist writers such as Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac: namely, too much mastery over one’s material and a sense of omnipotence and omniscience. In Molloy, I argue, Beckett rejects Joycean heroics in favour of a humble aesthetic of quietist renunciation, unknowing, and powerlessness that he drew from the work of André Gide, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Arthur Schopenhauer. The chapter concludes by arguing that Beckett came to see Joyce’s work as rooted in a Catholic mindset, whereas Molloy is built upon low-church, heretical, or anti-Catholic sensibilities found in Gide, Dostoevsky, and also Arnold Geulincx.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Wimbush
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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