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Title: The problem of Beckett in postmodern American literature
Author: Baxter, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 7233 5248
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2018
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In this thesis, I return to the unsettled ground of Beckett’s influence over the emergence of postmodern fiction. Taking on board Peter Boxall’s piercing assertion that ‘one of the most significant of Beckett’s legacies [...] is a conception of legacy itself,’ (2009) I provide a narrative of inheritance in which the exhaustion of literary experiment glimpsed in Beckett provides a bequest that is simultaneously energising and enervating. In particular, I connect this to the strained relationship of Beckett regarding the U.S., enshrined in his statement that this is ‘somehow not the right country for me.’ (Knowlson, 1996) The first chapter details the practicalities of Beckett’s U.S. migration via the Grove Press periodical Evergreen Review. Beckett’s 16 (1957-1973) appearances in the American periodical serve as a core vehicle of the author’s deracination, contextualising his publisher Barney Rosset’s description of Beckett’s ‘nontogetherness.’ The second chapter focuses on the work of Thomas Pynchon, in which Beckett’s poetics of exhaustion is integrated alongside the vitalism of the popular Beat avant-garde staged in Evergreen. In particular, I argue that Beckett’s influence intersects with the postmodern problem of hermeneutics, dramatized through shared images of ending, ‘Zero,’ and entropy. The final chapter reframes the Beckettian disjuncture against the work of Don DeLillo and the author’s interrogation of ‘this whole global, yet American, postmodern culture.’ (Jameson, 1991) Framed by DeLillo as the ‘last writer to shape the way we think and see,’ (Mao II, 157) Beckett’s presence is one of termination; at the same time, it discloses a means whereby fiction might ‘extend into the world.’ (Adelman, 2004) Alongside developments in DeLillo’s spatial-poetics to a fiction set ‘nowhere in particular,’ I finally provide a view of Beckett’s problematic bequest as one that is integrated into the fabric of the text over time.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral