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Title: Beckett's classics
Author: Brenton, J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1999
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This dissertation demonstrates the importance of studying Beckett's Anglo-Irish background to understanding styles of literary citation in his work. It takes its title from Winnie's statement in Happy Days: 'a part remains, of one's classics, to help one through the day'. It shows that the way literary references bring comfort and diversion to Beckett's protagonists reflects Victorian and Edwardian tastes and habits of literary reference, such cultural practices as public recitation, rote-learning in the classroom, parlour games and music-hall pastiche. By reading literary allusions in the context of the socialised practices which inform them, this thesis argues against the view that Beckett's allusions break with the past. Beckett's allusions do not show him as a writer dedicated to an aesthetic wrecking project (as has been suggested by narrowly formalistic readings based on the Three Dialogues). Instead, by drawing upon the routinized practices of Anglo-Irish bourgeois life he explores the comic predicament of literature's relation to forms of acculturation: the habitual and automated, for all their ennuis and disappointments, might be a necessary source of aesthetic pleasure. Concentrating on Beckett's drama and fiction in English, the dissertation puts Beckett's literary references in the context of styles of allusion in the work of his Irish precursors Joyce, Yeats, Synge and O'Casey. It tracks changes across Beckett's career as a writer, noting the move from a comedy at the expense of practised literary reference in the Belacqua novels, to one which exploits its uneasy poise between the graceful and the stilted in the middle works. Later works return to a more aestheticised view of literature as conscious allusions are subsumed into the increasing literariness of Beckett's language. The comedy remains ambivalent and non-prescriptive. Beckett's work, though sometimes drawn to notions of art's autonomy, does not invalidate the habits of those common readers who turn to books for comfort or recreation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available