Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
2Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Flesh Made Word (Made Flesh): The Suffering Bodies of Samuel Beckett

Flesh Made Word (Made Flesh): The Suffering Bodies of Samuel Beckett

Ratings: (0)|Views: 15|Likes:
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Joan Somers Donnelly. Originally submitted for Drama & Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin, with lecturer Dr Nicholas Johnson in the category of English Literature
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Joan Somers Donnelly. Originally submitted for Drama & Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin, with lecturer Dr Nicholas Johnson in the category of English Literature

More info:

Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
See more
See less

06/01/2015

 
Abstract:In
Not I,
the 1972 drama by Samuel Beckett,
 
the audience experience consciousness in theprocess of constructing itself through speech as generated by the orifice of the mouth, butthe rest of the body is absent. That fragment of physical exertion, removed from the contextof the body, makes strange the strange pain of humanity. With the character Mouth Beckettis simultaneously distancing us from that pain and bringing us horrifyingly close. Thestrategies of physical failing, suffering and disembodiment that Beckett employs in hisconstruction of his protagonists in this later theatre and in the short prose are essential to hisinvestigation of human pain, local and universal, and the communication of such to theaudience, both viscerally and metaphorically. This essay will explore the theatre images andbodily happenings of Mouth
 
and the protagonists of the Four Novellas, in connection tomemory, loneliness, consciousness and decay, from the perspective of Merleau-Ponty'sphenomenology. A plunge into the physiology of matter that is character in Beckett.
Flesh Made Word (Made Flesh): The Suffering Bodies of SamuelBeckett‘The union of soul and body is not an amalgamation between two mutuallyexternal terms, subject and object, brought about by arbitrary decree. It isenacted in every instant in the movement of existence.’Maurice Merleau-Ponty,
The Phenomenology of Perception
1
In Beckett’s work from the late forties the weight of a continued existencein the deafeningly silent void of post-war Europe is physically felt in bodies. Thebody as an object to be kicked, starved, neglected, tortured and gassed, isforcibly reconciled with the body as subject who perceives, feels and gropes hisway in the world. These preoccupations with absence, perception, subjectivityand embodiedness mark the proximity of Beckett’s writings to the philosophicalwritings of his time, and their particular affinity with Merleau-Ponty’s
1
Maurice Merleau-Ponty,
The Phenomenology of Perception,
(London and New York:Routledge, 2002), 102.
 
phenomenology, which unites, ‘through the self’s perception of objects whichoffer themselves to the perceiver, an extreme subjectivism with an extremeobjectivism.’
2
These issues remained integral in Beckett’s writing, as it evolved,to the very end. He is, however, ‘uninterested in theorizing because he isuninterested in absolutes,’
3
and he applies these philosophical positions in amanner that gets at ‘the nerves of the audience, not its intellect.’
4
He createdwhat are among the most powerful images in twentieth century theatre, andwrote searing prose portraits of indigence, and although Beckett described hisown language in 1937 as ‘a veil that must be torn apart to get at the things (orthe Nothingness) behind it’ he never could stop.
5
It is language that makesmanifest the achingly real-but unreal-bodies of the prose, and it is speech thatdoubles in his theatre as aesthetic and expression. What persists though are theimages and the happenings of the body, of many bodies and of the same body(for the unity of the self and the stability of the subject never are assured). InBeckett, ‘the body is our general medium for having a world,’ and so the lensutilised here will be a phenomenological one.
6
The strategies of physical failing,suffering and disembodiment that Beckett employs in his construction of hisprotagonists in his later theatre and in some of the short prose are essential tohis investigation of human pain, local and universal, and the communication of such to the audience, both viscerally and metaphorically. This investigation
2
Steven Matthews, ‘Bodily Histories: Beckett and the Phenomenological Approach to theOther,’
Beckett and Phenomenology,
ed. Ulrike Maude and Matthew Feldman, (Londonand New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009), 132.
3
James Knowlson and John Pilling, ‘A Poetics of Indigence,’
Frescoes of the Skull, theLater Prose and Drama of Samuel Beckett,
(London: John Calder, 1979), 242.
4
Samuel Beckett, cited in James Knowlson and John Pilling,
Frescoes of the Skull, theLater Prose and Drama of Samuel Beckett,
(London: John Calder, 1979), 195.
5
Samuel Beckett, German letter of 1937,
Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and aDramatic Fragment 
, ed. Ruby Cohn, (New York: Grove Press, 1984), 171.
6
Merleau-Ponty,
The Phenomenology of Perception
, (London and New York: Routledge,2002), 169.
 
teases out the interactions of memory, loneliness, consciousness and decay, andis enacted through the ‘physiology of matter’
7
that are his characters.Despite the relentless progress of the neurosciences, it is still true that‘nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious.Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about howanything material could be conscious.’
8
And yet, here we are. The narration of the Four Novellas contains a sense of that bemused ignorance of where thethoughts are coming from, and indeed the matter of whether they are the storiesof one man or four is ambiguous. These narratives of memory strategically digup a fundamental bind of human suffering; it is through our bodies that weconstitute and are conscious of the world, but those same bodies, by beingsubject to pain, can reduce our capabilities to act within that world. These post-war tramps have been described as ‘creatures hampered in their ability to act, tointervene in the world, or to make sense of it.’
9
They live instead in anticipation-mundane rather than fearful-of death, simply as an inevitable consequence of the progressing decay they experience in their bodies daily. The presence of death in the novellas bounds them tightly to the Europe of 1946 in which theywere written, as does that deadening of the agency of the subject, whofrequently begins the recollection with an ejection from some boarding house orother institution, wandering on only to find another place to curl up in. TheExpelled begins with the proclamation that ‘memories are killing,’ and so the
7
D.H. Lawrence, cited in Herbert Blau, “Notes from the Underground: ‘Waiting for Godot’and ‘Endgame’,
On Beckett 
, ed. S.E. Gontarski, (New York: Grove Press, 1986), 259.
8
Jerry Fodor,
The Times Literary Supplement,
1992, cited in Terence W. Deacon, ‘TheImportance of What’s Missing,’
New Scientist 
, no. 2840, 26 November 2011.
9
Steven Matthews, ‘Bodily Histories: Beckett and the Phenomenological Approach to theOther,’
Beckett and Phenomenology,
ed. Ulrike Maude and Matthew Feldman, (Londonand New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009), 135.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->