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Reviewed by:
  • I Am a Process with No Subject
  • Brian Murray
Philip Beitchman. I Am a Process with No Subject. Gainesville: U of Florida P, 1988. 310 pp. $30.00.

"It will be my purpose," declares Philip Beitchman in the first sentence of I Am a Process with No Subject, "to explore literary theory in seven twentieth-century writers whose texts are characterized by a high degree of thematic and stylistic experimentation and are heavily influenced by the need to reflect upon and justify their own existence." These writers are Tristan Tzara, Samuel Beckett, Michel Leiris, Maurice Blanchot, James Joyce, Philippe Sollers, and Louis-René Des Forêts. Beitchman proceeds to examine each author individually, focusing at length on—for example—Joyce's Finnegans Wake and Beckett's Molloy. But he seeks also to stress "the links, both implicit and explicit, between them and a certain common mood of apocalyptic desperation, disillusion, and readiness for change and risk that they share." "I have chosen these writers," Beitchman writes, "because I think their works are particularly eloquent, blatant, and obvious examples of a decomposition of our society and a dissatisfaction with its norms, traditions, and goals that are present everywhere, not only, or even mainly, in literary practice."

Beitchman provides, in his opening chapter, a discussion of "the literature of deconstruction," which he defines—in part—as "the works so mordandy critical of the world that gave them birth and a fortiori of themselves that they are remarkable less for the statements they make or conclusions they come to than for the doubts they cast and the questions they pose and leave permanently open." He proceeds to link Joyce, Beckett, and the others with "this literature of deconstruction," which is—among other things—"obsessively molecular in its outlook and profoundly etymological in its mood, a style not dissimilar to the attention to glosses in the influential philosophy of Heidegger and more recently Derrida." Indeed, those who enjoy reading about the cosmic void and who like their academic prose filled with reverential allusions to the sainted figures of current [End Page 310] literary theory will undoubtedly find Beitchman's book a great delight and will perhaps want to savor particularly a sentence like this:

What draws and holds our attention to Leiris' text is not the words themselves, or what they mean and why they are said (since all such meanings and justifications proliferate so extensively that they erase each other), but instead something that by its very nature, akin to the 'leap' of Kierkegaard or the 'fissures' of Artaud and Bataille where Tel Quel found its stormy home, cannot be expressed, defined, contained, or rationalized but assumes the fleeting existence of 'jalon,' marker or indication of a desire, vector, or the expression of an even greater precariousness of his project and his person.

For those with no taste for this sort of thing, I Am a Process with No Subject will prove a pretty rough go.

Brian Murray
Loyola College in Maryland


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