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Tracing 'a literary fantasia': Arnold Geulincx in the works of Samuel Beckett

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:42 authored by David Tucker
This thesis investigates Beckett’s interests in the seventeenth-century philosopher Arnold Geulincx, tracing these interests first back to primary sources in Beckett’s own notes and correspondence, and then forward through his oeuvre. This first full-length study of the occasionalist philosopher in Beckett’s works reveals Geulincx as closely bound, in changeable and subtle ways, to Beckett’s altering compositional methodologies and aesthetic foci. It argues that multifaceted attentiveness to the different ways in which Geulincx is alluded to or explicitly cited in different works is required if the extent of Geulincx’ importance across Beckett’s oeuvre is to be properly understood. Chapter 1 presents a lineage of correspondence dating from 1936 to 1967 in which Beckett cites or alludes to Geulincx. It introduces Geulincx’ occasionalism and Beckett’s transcriptions from his works. Chapter 2 builds upon this empirical groundwork by arguing for a proposed chronology of Murphy’s composition. This focuses Geulincx’ importance to Murphy as a frame of reference located predominantly in the novel’s latter stages. Chapter 3 investigates Geulincx’ explicit presence in manuscript drafts of Watt. It argues that this particular presence is refined out of the novel’s final stages at the same time as it is thematised. Chapter 4 focuses in on a specific paragraph that cites Geulincx in La Fin/The End and Suite. The different versions of this paragraph stage a number of textual manoeuvres in revisions and translation that are revealing about Beckett’s attitude towards Geulincx as a source. Chapter 5 traces the consequences of this aesthetic attitude through imagery derived from Geulincx in Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable, this latter as a novel that seeks to enact certain of Geulincx’ ethical principles as narrative voice. The final chapter argues that there are highly refined and abstracted reappearances of Geulincx to be located in How It Is and in the television plays as a reinvigorated fascination with puppetry that also owes a debt to Beckett’s reading Heinrich von Kleist. While Geulincx has long been thought of as a fleeting presence in Beckett’s oeuvre, this full-length study finds that the philosopher’s altering and recurring presences bear closer scrutiny. Geulincx’ presences are more deeply embedded in Beckett’s work than previously noted by critics, and in this they frequently reflect Beckett’s broader changing aesthetic concerns as Beckett developed what he called his ‘series’ of works.


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