Beckett's Eighteenth Century by Frederik N. Smith

By Frederik N. Smith

Beckett's Eighteenth Century is the 1st book-length learn of Samuel Beckett's affinity with the British eighteenth century and of the impression of its writers on his paintings. studying speedy, Pope, Defoe, Fielding, Sterne, Johnson, grey, and different writers of this era, this learn demonstrates how he was once not just motivated by means of them, yet translates them for us in really a latest method.

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Very sparing in his Words, but somewhat over-liberal of his Breath” (p. 178); and “Behold a Fourth, in much and deep Conversation with himself, biting his Thumbs at proper Junctures . . Sir, says he, Give me a Penny, and I’ll sing you a Song: But give me the Penny first” (p. 178). Michel Foucault explained many years ago that the Age of Reason harbored a great fear of unreason. 27 Perversely, however, both Swift and Beckett suggest that the residents of Bedlam and the Magdalen Mental Mercyseat are no crazier than those outside those walls.

These phenomena scarcely exist until interpreted. If the Modern can only transmute the corpse into a neat generalization on outsides vs. insides, or if Watt can only transmute the door into a singular explanation of the behavior of doors, they can relax, sensation and conscience safely under control of intellect. The Tale and Watt are marked by strange denials of the facts of physical experience. Reading Swift’s book not as religious allegory but as a novel, we can take as an example Jack’s encounter with a post: He would shut his Eyes as he walked along the Streets, and if he happened to bounce his Head against a Post, or fall into the Kennel (as he seldom missed either to do one or both) he would tell the gibing Prentices, who looked on, that he submitted with entire Resignation, as to a Trip, or a Blow of Fate, with whom he found, by long Experience, how vain it was either to wrestle or to cuff; and whoever durst undertake to do either, would be sure to come off with a swinging Fall, or a bloody Nose.

The same arbitrariness operates in Beckett’s novel, where we are told that “Watt’s need of semantic succour was at times so great that he would set to trying names on things, and on himself, almost as a woman hats” (p. 83). Words in both texts begin to come unglued from things, and words themselves begin to disintegrate. In one passage from the Tale which contains a remarkable hint of Watt, the three brothers argue over the word “Knot,” whether it is spelled with a “C” or a “K,” as Swift puns over their heads “Hiatus in MS”: Swift and Beckett 43 on “not” and “nothing”; although the brothers consult their father’s will, there was “not a Word of the Shoulder-knot” (p.

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