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Tranter, Rhys Edward
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: PR
Over the last two decades, our understanding of Samuel Beckett’s life and work has been expanded by an unprecedented number of biographies, memoirs and personal correspondence published for the first time. As a result, academic research has been able to plot a series of connections between the writer’s literary work and the cultural and historical moments that shaped it.\ud Beckett has been hailed as a poet whose work engages like no other with the atrocities of the Second World War. This thesis takes as its starting point an issue that often arises in evaluations of the writer, but which has never before been explored in detail: the theme of trauma.\ud With reference to the work of prominent contemporary theorists, this project elucidates what we mean by the term trauma, and why it can be useful to our understanding of Samuel Beckett’s work. Drawing on the writings of Sigmund Freud, Cathy Caruth, and others, this thesis diagnoses traumatic symptoms and gestures in Beckett’s post-war writing. It identifies the role that ‘acting out’ and ‘working through’ plays in some of his late theatrical texts. And, moreover, the thesis begins to trace the role that trauma can play in our understanding of language and meaning.\ud Adopting a broadly poststructuralist view, this study engages with texts by Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Derrida to ask how trauma challenges the status of language and the Western humanist subject. It will demonstrate how how trauma problematises our understanding of walking and thinking in Beckett’s post-war prose; where the presence of live theatrical production is unsettled by traumatic repetition; and why Beckett’s plays for radio undermine our expectations of twentieth-century modernity. While charting the way that Beckett uses and adapts traumatic themes and ideas, the thesis observes how the term signals a broader crisis in Western humanist understandings of time, place and identity.
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