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Iconic Spaces

The Dark Theology of Samuel Beckett's Drama

Sandra Wynands

Publication Year: 2007

Iconic Spaces looks at Samuel Beckett's mature theatrical work as a displaced theology of the icon. Sandra Wynands rejects conventional existentialist or nihilist interpretations of Beckett's work, arguing instead that beneath the text, in the depths of language and being, Beckett creates an absolutely irreducible, transcendent space. She traces a nondual model of perception and experience through a selection of Beckett's art-critical and dramatic works, focusing in particular on four minimalist plays: Catastrophe, Not I, Quad, and Film. Iconic Spaces makes an important contribution to scholars and students of literature, philosophy, theatre studies, and religion by giving them an exciting new way of reading and experiencing Beckett's work.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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Contents and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-ix

There are many people without whom this book would not have taken shape. Kevin Hart, in particular, extended his exceptional generosity to me. His encompassing view of literature, philosophy, theology, and art has enabled me to look far beyond the small world I could have seen by myself. ...

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-18

While staying at his mother’s house in Ireland just after the end of World War II, Samuel Beckett decisively closed an early chapter of his writing career. He had what is often touted in Beckett criticism as a “revelation,” which at the very least was a radical insight that would guide his writing for the rest of his career ...

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Chapter 2. Visuality and Iconicity in Samuel Beckett’s Catastrophe

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pp. 19-42

Counter to Beckett’s usual practice when dedicating a work to an individual, Catastrophe is dedicated to someone whom Beckett did not know personally, but who was both an eminent political figure and a fellow artist. Vaclav Havel’s imprisonment in “socialist” Czechoslovakia for “subversive” political activities had prompted ...

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Chapter 3. “Three Dialogues” and the Economy of Art

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pp. 43-76

In his “Three Dialogues” Beckett ventures a startling artistic theory. He proposes an “expressionless” art—that is, art not based on expression. According to Beckett, art is an economy of exchange; it turns into a “farce of giving and receiving” (“TD” 141) because it is based on the teleology implicit in the goal of complete ...

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Chapter 4. Metaphor and Metonymy in Not I

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pp. 77-112

Beckett’s theoretical explorations of an expressionless art in the “Three Dialogues” do not remain without aesthetic and artistic consequences. A steady “neutralization” progresses throughout Beckett’s work, especially his late plays and prose writings. Colors, still used to startling effect in Happy Days, for instance, ...

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Chapter 5. The Empty Space of Quad

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pp. 113-148

By the time we reach Quad the main divergence between Beckett’s perspective and apophatic discourse becomes apparent: Beckett comes to realize explicitly the very thing apophatic discourse takes for granted— namely, that what cannot be said in language emerges in the interstices of language, in the moment of slippage. ...

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Chapter 6. The Reduction of Film

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pp. 149-180

Film, first shown in 1965, was Beckett’s first and remained his only excursion into the world of filmmaking. Not surprisingly, it is not the work of an accomplished filmmaker: it betrays Alan Schneider’s inexperience at directing films (it was Schneider’s first, too) as well as Beckett’s in writing for the screen. ...

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Chapter 7. Conclusion

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pp. 181-186

O does not fuse with E, Mouth’s ramblings do not cease, and Beckett’s scurrying monks continue methodically along their imaginary paths. The classical phenomenological reduction cannot be complete because of our inherence in the world. We are incarnate, embodied (and fallen) beings, rather than pure spirit ...


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pp. 187-202


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pp. 203-214


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pp. 215-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780268096601
E-ISBN-10: 0268096600
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268044107
Print-ISBN-10: 0268044104

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 694144467
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Iconic Spaces

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Subject Headings

  • Beckett, Samuel, -- 1906-1989 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 -- Religion.
  • Spiritual life in literature.
  • Theology in literature.
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