Samuel Beckett's negative narrative and its historicity: towards a critical historicism

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This thesis interprets Samuel Beckett’s negative narrative from a historicist point of view. Chapter One reconstructs the Viconian elements in Beckett’s early critical work, “Dante … Bruno . Vico .. Joyce.” Beckett’s Viconian interpretation of the overlap between historicity and individuality in Joyce’s narrative forecasts Beckett's own narrative experiments. Chapter Two explores Beckett’s aesthetic construction of non-identity in Three Novels. The negativity is oriented in the post-traumatic experience of Beckett’s narrators. As their psychological and physiological conditions degenerate, their narrations become increasingly abstract in the temporospatial structure, morphology, and causation, but remain concrete in representing worsening corporeal experience through the stream of consciousness. The overlap between concretion and abstraction turns the corporeal experience into a signifier that potentially signifies various possible historical conditions. Chapter Three seeks the perfection of Adorno’s historicist interpretation of Beckett’s narrative with the readings by Badiou and McNaughton. Adorno initiates a historicist reading of Beckett. However, Adorno’s historicist reading potentially contains nihilism that contradicts Adorno’s dialectics of history. Badiou liberates the voidness and abstraction in Beckett’s narrative from nihilism, and he redefines it as an intellectual tendency to find the generic knowledge. McNaughton’s reading of Endgame reveals its concrete historicity by focusing on language and rhetoric form in Beckett’s narrative and thereby establishes an immediate connection between Beckett’s narrative and historicity. In this way, Beckett’s historicist interpretation becomes independent of a conceptual mediator and retains the priority of historicity.

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