English Seminar: Raymond Federman and Samuel Beckett
Nathalie Camerlynck: Raymond Federman and Samuel Beckett, or ‘What the fuck am I doing here in this life?’
Abstract: Raymond Federman is a (relatively) little-known postmodern theorist, avant-garde autobiographer and scholar of Samuel Beckett. I’ve spent about five years, on and off, in a close textual relationship with Federman—who died in 2011, before I’d ever heard of him. Federman gave me the courage to write in what John Fletcher, a more orthodox Beckettian, once called “a breathless and assertive air” (1976 review of Surfiction). I like Fletcher’s phrase because it feels like oxygen, like something we might need more of in these stuffy academic spaces, even or especially now. Which is funny considering Federman’s central text, A Voice in the Closet/La voix dans le cabinet de débarras (1979), is all about the time he spent hiding in a closet. In the closet fearful and alone, after his family have been rounded up by police, never to be seen again (the place is Paris, the year 1942) Federman speaks to Beckett, using Beckett’s words. What he says to him, or rather what Beckett says for him, is that there is a second closet, one that the reader is invited to uncover through intertextual signs—only to realise that the truth was there all along, in the plainest of language, with no literary allusions at all! So that’s what happened to me. I wrote a whole book about Beckettian intertextuality in the work of Raymond Federman. It’s about closets and queerness, yes, but also about God, and dogs, and birds. Fathers and erased mothers. About what scholars, critics, people like us, are even really doing.
Nathalie Camerlynck completed her PhD at the University of Sydney in 2019 in the Department of French and Francophone Studies, where she is currently Associate Lecturer. Her first monograph, Raymond Federman and Samuel Beckett: Voices in the Closet, was published with Anthem symplokē Studies in Theory this year.
This event will be held online via Zoom.
Contact: Liam Semler (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Upcoming English Department seminars Semester 2 2021
10 Nov: Lynda Ng, ‘Climate justice, world literature and Alexis Wright’