The dislocated cosmography : primary love and psychic catastrophe in the work of Samuel Beckett
The author presents a psychoanalytic reading of Beckett's work, which focuses on emotional states and the struggle to maintain an enduring contact with a primary, internal object. Using clinical case material, and a theoretical framework that includes ideas from Bion, Tustin, Klein, Winnicott, and Kohut, there is an exploration of the underlying psychological organization (a 'narrative self') of Beckett's work, as it is manifested in the imagery, character relations, and associative movement of the texts. It is suggested that Beckett's work is a record of an integral struggle to maintain a cohesiveness of the self in the face of primary disintegration-anxiety, and is an elucidation of a schizoid dilemma. It is emphasized that this does not pathologize Beckett, since he explores the earliest experiences that underlie the psyche, and this is developed with support from Ogden and infant research. The dissertation focuses on Murphy's misrecognition of his own loving feelings; Watt's attempt at self-repair through maternal connection with Knott; the complex states of experience in Waiting for Godot that are generated by feelings of maternal misattunement; the core sense of emotional starvation in Beckett; and the notion of the 'hidden self' that is manifested in the early, short fiction, and which suggests disconnection from a loving, integrative primary object. A detailed reading of 'The Lost Ones' suggests it is the production of a unified self, struggling to maintain a balance between powerful internal images. In addition there is discussion of a number of later short dramatic pieces, which are seen as revealing deeply unconscious experiences of primary failures of contact between the nascent self and the mother.