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Title: Samuel Beckett's Trilogy in context
Author: Johnstone, Patrick Douglas
ISNI:       0000 0004 2673 3165
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis examines the relationship between Samuel Beckett's Trilogy - 'Molloy', 'Malone Dies' and 'The Unnamable' - and the contexts in which it was written and has been read. Chapter 1 considers the Trilogy's critical reception, reflecting on its contentious construction as a distinctly Irish set of texts, and the broader contexts in which this takes place. It focuses on the writing of early Beckett critics Vivian Mercier and Hugh Kenner, and of Irish Studies critics in the 1980s and 1990s. Chapter 2 presents close readings of the novels which explore how Beckett's experience of Ireland and his Irish Protestant background inform them in fundamental ways. Their critique of the Irish Free State's attitude to sexuality, and the severe self-scrutiny of the Low Church Protestantism Beckett grew up with, is probed, along with the peculiarly 'Protestant Gothic' shape this takes. The national context moves to France in chapter 3, where the Trilogy is read alongside the contemporary literary theory of Roland Barthes and Maurice Blanchot. Preoccupied with ideas of the neutral and neutrality, their work makes visible the penetration of Cold War political neutralism, pervasive in France at the time, into the theory and practice of literature - the context framing the Trilogy's interpretation here. Finally, the Trilogy's representation of contemporary death is analysed. Medicalized to the point where life can be sustained almost indefinitely, death has been said to have 'disappeared' in the twentieth century. This historically specific distension of dying and 'disappearance' of death is shown to constitute one of the Trilogy's principal concerns. Though the relationship between Beckett's Trilogy and its contexts appears threadbare and is frequently overlooked, this thesis illuminates its breadth, depth and significance, demonstrating that a thorough knowledge of its complex, multifaceted and deeply rooted nature is crucial to our understanding of Beckett's three novels.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available