Department of English Seminar: Mark Byron & Cecily Niumeitolu
Department of English seminar: Mark Byron and Cecily Niumeitolu, University of Sydney
Samuel Beckett’s Nohow On ‘Everywhere stone is gaining’: Ill Seen Ill Said and Beckett’s Geological Imagination (Mark Byron)
This paper reports on a recently completed project titled Samuel Beckett’s Geological Imagination. That project addresses the ubiquity of geological objects in Beckett’s prose, drama and poetry, exploring how mineral objects bear upon the themes, narrative locus, and sensibilities of Beckett’s texts in surprisingly varied ways. Today my focus will rest on the late prose work Ill Seen Ill Said (1981), in which a woman is observed making a ceremonial path between her home and a distant gravestone, passing through a cromlech or standing stone circle as well as a field of stones. I will read the narrative for its telluric etymologies, its post-human agencies, and its materialist ontologies. By reorienting some of the basic dimensions of literary texts in this way, Ill Seen Ill Said casts a surprisingly regenerative eye over Beckett’s oeuvre and over the conceptual range of literary testimony being tested in Beckett’s narrative. This in turn presents a challenge to available methods of reading and understanding this text, impelling the reader to rethink the tectonics of literary interpretation.
“Directly after copulation the devil’s laughter is heard”: the sterile genesis and gender bending spectres of Beckett’s Worstward Ho (Cecily Niumeitolu)
This paper explores an overlooked aspect of Worstward Ho in critical discourse, the question of gender. This question emerges through Beckett’s rendering of the first shade in the narrative asconspicuously genderless prior to possessing or being possessed by the proposition: “So better worse from now that shade a woman’s.” I use Spivak’s “The Staging of Time in Heremakhonon” to focus on how the genetic edition of Worstward Ho opens philosophical intertexts that interpolate a hybrid time. The ‘Sottisier’ notebook within this edition, specifically Beckett’s jottings from Schopenhauer, track Beckett’s irreverent bending of philosophical ideas to the service of Worstward Ho. I argue that Beckett adapted self-reflexively structural elements of his drama, and poetry into his late prose in what he characterised as his road toward “some form of nominalistic irony.” This road winds into historical complication as I think through Worstward Ho in the context of Beckett’s refusal for women actors to perform Waiting for Godot or Hamm in Endgame during the 1970s into the late 80s because of gender difference. I bring this gender trouble into conversation with Claire Colebrook’s Sex After Life and the concept of sterile genesis engendered by Beckett’s late Modernist prose as I read for the absent yet still haunting present materiality of bodies and the un/twining of gender and biological sex.
Seminar Room 226
John Woolley Building (A20)
The University of Sydney