University of Sussex
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Beckett & economics

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posted on 2023-06-09, 14:43 authored by Dominic Walker
This thesis investigates the economic themes and structures in Samuel Beckett’s prose texts from 1932 to 1964. It aims to understand the difficulties of imagining a political context for Beckett’s writing, and identifies two main obstacles to doing so: the downward shift in economic perspective from More Pricks than Kicks (1934) to Molloy (1951) implies a logic of value that prioritises ‘indifference’ and withdrawal from material concerns (‘nothing to gain’); and the category of representation has been destabilised by an effort to make the ‘metaphysical’ and the ‘concrete’ interchangeable, where the latter is often economic in nature. Chapter 1 addresses the ‘closed system’ of desire in Murphy (1938), a theory of value with equivalents in economic and psychoanalysis; the novel’s unemployment plot spells out its ramifications for writing and production in general. Chapter two considers two variant passages about economics from the Watt typescript (1945) and the notebooks of Molloy (1947), and concludes that they show Beckett turning against a formal interest in equilibrium (‘the depths where demand and supply coincide’). Chapter 3 sees Beckett’s post-war texts, with ‘vaguen[ed]’ referents inviting innumerable possible readings, moving towards a new form of value based on equivalence and interchangeability. Chapter 4 sees this logic of equivalence intercalated through How It Is (1964) [1961], and takes the torturer-tortured relationship as a readymade figure for a readerly economy that leaves punishingly little room for a reader; it finds that Beckett’s overlapping fascinations with torture and circulation are inextricable from the resistances of his writing to persuasive political restatements. The thesis ends by arguing that Beckett’s economics is more ‘concrete’ because it can be taken for lenient otherworldliness.


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  • eng


University of Sussex

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