Languages and Literature, University of Warwick
Taking as its impetus the underexamined remark from Samuel Beckett’s letters that he was attempting a “mystical writing, so that the void may protrude like a hernia”, this project seeks to understand Beckett’s apophatic desire to strip away language, to poke holes or tear apart its arbitrary veil, as a desire to let a paradoxically fleshy, substantive void protrude through the threadbare linguistic surface; to be “let in” and given a form. Central to this is the idea that the enigmatic void, that “something or nothing” at the core of Beckett’s work after all representation and thematics have been stripped away, is akin to the mystical void of negative theology. Moreover, I will argue that Beckett’s apophatic (post)modernism anticipates contemporary affect theory, in that his work achieves an expression of bodily life beyond logocentric representation into affective intensity. I seek to intersect this affective linguistic mysticism with the work of Beckett’s contemporaries Maurice Blanchot, Georges Bataille, and Walter Benjamin, reframing key problematics in 20th-century literature and philosophy to illuminate Beckett’s literary struggle with the paradoxes between the somatic and ideal, world and void, and language and silence.