Engagement and Indifference

Beckett and the Political

Edited by Henry Sussman & Christopher Devenney

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Paperback : 9780791447666, 184 pages, November 2000
Hardcover : 9780791447659, 184 pages, November 2000

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Table of contents


Introduction: The Politics of Language-Based Systems
Henry Sussman

1. Company: The Voice of Language
Raymond Federman

2. Unwording beyond Negation, Erasures, and Reticentia: Beckett's Committed Silence
Carla Locatelli

3. The Politics of Small Differences: Beckett's The Unnamable
Gabriele Schwab

4. A Descent from Clowns
Christian Prigent

5. "Going to BEthiCKETT on the Way to Heaven": The Politics of Self-Reflection in Postmodern Fiction
Marcel Cornis-Pope

6. Lost in the Mall: Beckett, Federman, Space
Brian McHale

7. The Same Old Hag: Gender and (In)Difference in Samuel Beckett's Trilogy
AnJanette Brush

8. What Remains?
Christopher Devenney

9. Beckett [f]or Nothing
Raymond Federman

Notes on Contributors


Explores the hidden political and ethical dimensions of the work of Samuel Beckett, an author who might otherwise be considered indifferent to such considerations.


In this book, creative writers and critical theorists consider the work of Samuel Beckett from theoretical, postmodern, aesthetic, poetic, and feminist perspectives. Collectively, they search for the hidden political and ethical dimensions of Beckett, an author who might otherwise be considered indifferent to such considerations. Their combined inquiry offers an ethical and political inquest into the entire enterprise of radical experimentalism in twentieth-century literature and culture.

Henry Sussman is Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is the author of Psyche and Text: The Sublime and the Grandiose in Literature, Psychopathology, and Culture, also published by SUNY Press. Christopher Devenney is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Haverford College.


"This is one of the best collections of essays I have seen in some time. The authors manage to make strong cases for the link between Beckett and political questions even as they provide important bridges between experimental fictions in general and political consciousness. For too long it has been assumed that experimental literature by definition must be antipolitical, and in highly political times like our own, this can only serve to further diminish the importance of work that is in so many ways clearly the best that has been done in the past fifty years. This book goes a long way toward redressing this situation and reclaiming an important place for experimental fiction that includes an inevitable political function as well. This topic is central to Beckett studies, to the question of modern and contemporary fiction, and to the larger theoretical issues that such fiction inevitably involves. " — James S. Hans, author of Contextual Authority and Aesthetic Truth

"Each author provides either an explicit or an implied sense of the political. This breadth extends Beckett scholarship as well as considerations of the political as the term is used among literary and cultural theorists. " — Steven Ungar, coeditor of Identity Papers: Contested Nationhood in Twentieth-Century France