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Title: Abjection and the construction of self in the prose fiction of Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett
Author: Jones, D. H.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis analyses the construction of identity in the prose fiction of Genet and Beckett via the figure of abjection. Abjection is understood in both a literary and a psychoanalytical sense; Kristeva's theorisation of a poorly-differentiated pre-Oedipal subject is important for reading the ironic reinscription of identity in Genet and Beckett, where the subject's exclusion and humiliation are the grounds for an ironic new selfhood. Chapter 1 examines the role of parental figures in the narrative construction of subjectivity. Kristeva's theorisation of the child's struggle for psychic separation is proposed as a critical framework for reading Genet and Beckett before turning to the specifies of parent-child relationships. I analyse the role of the signature in constructing the self, from its interrogation of filiation and textual unity to the theoretical formulations of which it is the subject in texts by Jacques Derrida which specifically address Beckett and Genet. In chapter 2 I discuss the pseudo-autobiographical pronouncements heralded by the name "Genet" in Genet's fiction, characterised by a self-abasement common to almost all Genet's and Beckett's characters. The ironic gesture of wilful submission constitutes an ironic reassertion of identity which is predicated on the porous instability of the dominant order seen in Bataille and Barthes and illuminated by the common notion of miracle. Genet's and Beckett's "miracles" and religious imagery are not simply parodic, but interrogate the signifying practices which produce value in the first place. Chapter 3 investigates the role of the abject body in the construction of identity. Psychoanalysis theorises ingestion and sexual activity as drives which lead to the institution of social prohibitions; the dual bodily and symbolic function of Freud's totem meal may be related to ingestion and sexuality in Genet and Beckett. The elusive phantasmatic bodies of Ce qui est reste ..., Assez and Comment c'est degrade the expressive capabilities of language yet resist the situation of identity in the body, while Pompes Funebres founds values and identity in the flexing disunity of abjection and the submersion of narrative linearity in the visual.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available