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Ber Wiss. 2009 Dec;32(4):329-44.

[Exhausted literature. The emergence of the new in Samuel Beckett's novels and plays].

[Article in German]

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Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin, Berlin.


The article investigates literary subjectivity in some texts by Samuel Beckett. The article proceeds by relating the ways of how narration and speech acts constitute literary subjectivity to the problems of subjectivity that scientific investigations deal with. While successful self-regulation of the organism nourishes the roots of subjectivity, i.e., the habits, subjectivity decomposes in states of exhaustion, when self-regulation breaks down. As soon as a certain threshold is transgressed, fatigue sets in, alters the personality and eventually leads to exhaustion--a state, which psychiatrists compare to mental illness. Notwithstanding the different explanations given, scientists agreed about the effects of exhaustion. According to their investigations, the decomposition of personality by exhaustion generally does not involve apathy, withdrawal from activity or termination of movements, but rather mere action. Similarly, in Beckett's novels and plays exhaustion is much more than tiredness, as French philosopher Gilles Deleuze observed. For Beckett, exhaustion is rather the model for both literary innovation and a new concept of subjectivity, which he explores on the basis of a detailed knowledge of physiology, psychology, and psychiatry, but using his own literary means. The exhausted subject is beyond any calculus of activity. It will perform an activity even if he or she makes mistakes or loses control, and will thus act in an unpredictable way. This unpredictable action is not an exception in the continuation of the habits, but rather points to the moment when a new subjectivity emerges. Such new subjectivity suraces in Beckett's novels and plays in forms of literary innovation.

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