Englisches Seminar, Grosser Hörsaal
Machine Language, Birdsong, and 'verbum dei': The Limits of Literature in Samuel Beckett
Beckett’s work has often been described as a response to the modernist crisis of representation. And indeed, the development of Beckett’s aesthetic over six decadescan be seen as a series of confrontations with the limitations of natural language and increasingly radical attempts to bring the game of literature to an end. The talk will sketch this development as it progresses from the literary devices of Beckett’s novel trilogy to the dramaturgical solutions of the early stage plays Waiting for Godot and Endgame to the later plays in which the theatrical paradigm of intersubjective dialogue is gradually replaced by telecommunication models. With a focus on a lesser-known stage play, Rough for Theatre II (1958), the talk will analyse Beckett’s artistic experimentation with symbolic logic, Boolean algebra, alternating currents and electric switches, linking it to the history of emergent media technologies to inquire into Beckett’s engagement with the nexus between literary representation and digital data processing. The second part of the talk will outline the role of bird speech and the divine language in Theatre II and elsewhere in Beckett’s search for the other of signification.
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