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Title: Samuel Beckett, intertextuality, and the Bible
Author: Bailey, Iain Andrew Aitchison
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2010
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Abstract:
This thesis takes up the question of intertextuality between the Bible and Samuel Beckett’s oeuvre. It starts with the contention that this relationship has acquired something of the status of a commonplace within Beckett studies; not that substantial scholarly works have not widened out considerably the way that this is understood, but in Ruby Cohn’s words: ‘today every Beckett student knows his literary allegiances—the Bible and Dante, above all’. The Bible’s status for Beckett comes to be treated as a matter of common sense. In response to this critical situation, one aspect of the thesis is to disclose and analyse previously overlooked examples of the Bible’s presence in Beckett’s work, engaging with hitherto occluded parts of the oeuvre (unpublished manuscript texts and the French works, for example). But at the same time, it looks to critically question what is at stake in the claim that the Bible is a matter of common knowledge for Beckett. The methodology put to work in the thesis always begins in close readings of Beckett’s texts, and also of the discourses surrounding his oeuvre. In doing so, it resists an idea that close reading entails a retreat into an ahistorical formalism; rather, it argues for an historicism that does not simply rest on broad notions of orthodoxy and shared values. Rather than taking for granted a common sense idea of what the Bible is (even in the limited sense of what it is for Beckett), the thesis argues for its instability as a ‘text’ across more than one language. Nor, I argue, does Beckett’s oeuvre fix down a particular, single notion of the Bible as the relevant one for its own purposes (the King James Bible, for instance); on the contrary, his work is deeply engaged with the Bible in all its complex, multilingual textuality. The thesis contends that the particular relationship between Beckett and the Bible poses distinctive problems for the kinds of epistemological value invested in a certain understanding of intertextuality; indeed, I look throughout to interrogate the authority invested in familiarity—both that of the author and that of the critic. Following this thread, the thesis also undertakes a sustained engagement with the way in which archival materials are used and valued by a critical practice interested in questions of intertextuality. Through this, I look to do two things at once: both to respond to the extraordinary value of archival documentation for opening up new possibilities within Beckett studies, and at the same time to analyse closely the extents and limitations of what can be claimed on the basis of such analyses. In working through these kinds of question, and responding to the particular exigencies produced by the Bible in relation to the Beckett oeuvre, I also engage with critical issues having to do with theories of affect, the notion of style (asking what it means to adduce some piece of text as ‘biblical’ or ‘Beckettian’), and the analysis of intertextuality in performance. Through all of these readings, the thesis is interested in what it means to read intertextuality in relation to a Beckett ‘oeuvre’, when the ambit of that oeuvre, its internal interrelationships and its points of connection with the world, constantly shift and reformulate themselves. Rather than treating the Bible as a thread that can be safely followed from one end of the oeuvre to the other, guaranteeing a continuity that remains free from the complexities, irruptions and discontinuities performed in Beckett’s texts, the thesis argues that biblical intertextuality is actively involved in those complex Beckettian movements.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.520492  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Samuel Beckett ; Intertextuality ; Genetic Criticism ; The Bible ; Affect
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