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Title: Like a thing forsaken : Beckett, Sebald and the politics of materiality
Author: Schauss, Martin
ISNI:       0000 0004 8497 7264
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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This comparative study investigates representations of objects and materiality in the late modernism of Samuel Beckett and W.G. Sebald. The thesis responds to the recent proliferation of theories and literary analyses focused on objects, matter, and the nonhuman (such as "new materialisms" and "thing theory"), and specifically to what is arguably their unifying premise: the call for a "politics of materiality." It argues that Beckett and Sebald's works are defined by leftover things and material remainders, which express a negative, indeterminate quality that problematizes affirmative systems of relations and the recuperation of "matter" into narrative meaning. What their oeuvres share is a sense of historical belatedness and material depletion, tied to the European post-war moment and a mutual concern for issues of remembrance and recovery. Within this context, their aesthetic response to a history of violence is in conversation with both realist and modernist object categories, and poses a series of specific difficulties to object-oriented perspectives and the notion of a "politics of materiality." Their works foreground the materiality of language, intensifying the inadequacy of mediation not just for the representation of things, but for any encounter with them. Regarding the respective author fields, the thesis contends that the focus on materiality encourages a critical reformulation of the problem of politics and history, a problem that persists through their work's resistance towards systematisation, determination and resolution. It posits that a conception of "thingness" in their work expresses neither truth, essence, nor an ideal object, but rather a limit encounter that asks for a continual revision of historical and political signification. The thesis contributes to the recent critical recognition of a latent political potential in Beckett's work, and disputes claims that Sebald's novels encourage melancholic resignation in the face of catastrophe.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General) ; PN Literature (General) ; PR English literature ; PT Germanic literature