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Technology and the Othered Self in Beckett's 'Krapp's Last Tape' and 'Film'

Technology and the Othered Self in Beckett's 'Krapp's Last Tape' and 'Film'

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Clara Kumagai. Originally submitted for Studies on Samuel Beckett at Trinity College, Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Nicholas Johnson in the category of English Language & Literature
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Clara Kumagai. Originally submitted for Studies on Samuel Beckett at Trinity College, Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Nicholas Johnson in the category of English Language & Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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12/05/2013

 
Technology and the Othered Self in
Krapp’s Last Tape
and
Film
I don’t know, I’m here, that’s all I know, and that it’s still not me,it’s of that the best has to be made.
1
...Samuel Beckett’s advice for life. Or, rather, for
living
. ForBeckett was a writer who was always concerned with life, howeverbleak or morbid his drama and prose may sometimes appear. Beckettis perceived as a pessimist because he was very much aware that lifeis
hard
. Beckett’s characters struggle through the hardships of theworld, its inhabitants, its circumstances, but the hardship of life isoften more fundamental even than these basics. It is hard for one tolive when even the ‘I’ that is doing the living is impossible to defineand identify. “I’m here... it’s still not me”; the question of identity isone that haunts Beckett’s writings, which is populated with characterswho search for meaning, for memory, for a
something
which willcomplete them. The Beckettian character is always incomplete.Beckett’s work, Ark-like, is filled with pseudo-couples - and foressentially the same reason: they need each other to live. Didi andGogo, Hamm and Clov, Winnie and Willie - even Mouth and the Auditor- all represent two which, together,
nearly 
make up one. These pairsfunction as the self’s search for unity, which in Beckett’s prose isfocused inwards, often as monologues to the self, such as in
MaloneDies
and
Texts for Nothing
. For stage, however, this internal questing
1
 
Samuel Beckett,
Texts for Nothing
in
The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989,
(New York, Grove Press, 1995), page 113.
 
had to be adapted and externalised; thus these famous double actswere born. The best examples of the divisive self, however, does notexist in the form of these couples.
Krapp’s Last Tape
and
Film
demonstrate the divided self more effectively than either prose ordramatic duologue because Beckett succeeded in finding the perfectbalance between both these forms. In
Krapp’s Last Tape
and
Film
theself encounters its
Other-ed self 
through different forms of a newmedia: technology. Through his use of technology in
Krapp’s Last Tape
and
Film
,Beckett reinforced
 
the detachment of the self from its internal,constant Other. Not only this, but because it is staged through throughtape recorder and camera lens respectively, it lends itself to manycontemporary theoretical debates concerning technology. Heideggerwrites that the word
techne
derives itself from the Greek word forcraftsmanship and art, that it essentially describes a poetic andenlightening media. Technology, then, Heidegger argues, is a methodof 
revealing.
 The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has thecharacter of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging-forth...Unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing, and switching about areways of revealing. But the revealing never simply comes to an end.Neither does it run off into the indeterminate. The revealing reveals toitself its own manifoldly interlocking paths, through regulating theircourse. This regulating itself is, for its part, everywhere secured.
22
 
Martin Heidegger, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ in
Basic Writings,
ed. byDavid Krell (New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), page 318
 
With regards to
Krapp’s Last Tape
in particular, this statementespecially relevant. Krapp has recorded and listened to his memorieson tape every year, on his birthday; “storing” and “unlocking” them byturn. And they are “revealing” indeed. Just been listening to an old year, passages at random. I did not checkin the book, but it must be at least ten or twelve years ago... Hard tobelieve I was ever that young whelp. The voice! Jesus! And theaspirations!
3
 The ‘present’ Krapp, aged sixty-nine, hardly recognises his youngerself, forgets the recorded memories referred to. The tapes reveal pasttimes and people, past experiences; past
selves
. Heidegger is correctto say that “the revealing never simply comes to an end”, yet neitheris it as organised and categorised as he imagines. Krapp is unsettledby the confrontation of these occurrences, forgotten, and literally re-membered as part of his consciousness thirty-odd years later. Theexperience is unsettling because these memories are not recurringnaturally and involuntarily, like Proust’s tea-soaked madeleine. Through the medium of technology, through the replaying of thedisembodied voice, these selves, preserved, resurrect themselves. Thetape recorder is, as Hugh Kenner observes:...a machine anyone might possess, which could store away for futuredecantation whatever story one chose to tell in its presence, everypause, every nuance, every intonation inflexibly, irrevocablyregistered: more faithful than any memory, yet implacable and hence
3
Samuel Beckett,
Krapp’s Last Tape
in
The Complete Dramatic Works
, (London,Faber and Faber Ltd., 2006), page 218.

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