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1 For a study of Beckett's aesthetic of minimalism, see Brater. For comment on the ‘progressive shrinking of scale’ in Beckettian art, see Knowlson and Pilling, 103. For reference to ‘the movement toward simplicity,’ see Gontarski, 3. For comment on Beckett's ‘regressive reduction,’ see Amiran, 13. university of toronto quarterly, volume 70, number 2, spring 2001 E R I C P . L E V Y The Beckettian Mimesis of Seeing Nothing Inhisessay‘Peintres del'Empêchment’ (‘PaintersofImpediment’), Beckett espouses an aesthetic of lessness, wherein the task of the artist is not originality, but reductive reformulation: ‘Heureusement il ne s'agit pas de dire ce qui n'a pas encore été dit, mais de redire, le plus souvent possible dans l'espace le plus reduit, ce qui a été dit déjà’ (‘Fortunately it is not a question of saying what has not yet been said, but of repeating, as often as possible in the most reduced space, what has already been said) (133). In mimetic terms, this aesthetic principle has two immediate consequences. First, it requires the representation of experience defined by futile repetition: ‘Whereas to see yourself doing the same thing endlessly over and over again fills you with satisfaction’ (Molloy, 133). Second, the principle dictates that each successive work by a given artist represent the same experience of futile repetition in progressively impoverished or contracted circumstances: ‘as if to grow less could help, ever less and less and never quite be gone’ (Texts for Nothing, 112). Beckettian art conforms relentlessly to its defining principle, with the result that, in the last works suchas‘Still,’ reductiverepetitioneventuallyachievesamimetic spareness almost beyond expression: ‘Or anywhere any ope staring out at nothing just failing light quite still till quite dark though of course no such thing just less light still, when less did not seem possible’ (For to End, 20).1 The mimetic reduction in the passage just quoted, where existence concerns ‘staring out at nothing,’ is the quintessential Beckettian experience . Celebrated analogues include (a) Murphy's vision of Nothing: ‘Murphy began to see nothing, that colourlessness which is such a postnatal treat, being the absence ... not of percipere but of percipi’ (Murphy, 246); (b) Watt's nocturnal vigil in the train station: ‘There was now no longer a dark part and a less dark part, no, but all now was uniformly dark, and remained so, for some time’ (Watt, 225); (c) the Unnamable's eyes, which ‘must remain forever fixed and staring on the narrow space before them where there is nothing to be seen, 99% of the time’ (The Unnamable, 301); the beckettian mimesis of seeing nothing 621 2 Cf Moorjani: ‘Beckett's novels from Watt onward...undermine the classic project of the novel to mirror outer and inner reality, the fiction of transparency’ (45). (d) the narrator of Texts for Nothing ‘begging in another dark, another silence, for another alm, that of being or of ceasing, better still, before having been’ (115); (e) Hamm's prediction in Endgame: ‘You'll be sitting there, a speck in the void, in the dark, for ever, like me’ (36); (f) Krapp, at the end of Krapp's Last Tape, ‘motionless staring before him’ (28); (g) Mr Slocum in All That Fall: ‘Gazing straight before me, Mrs. Rooney, through the windscreen, into the void’ (Krapp’s Last Tape and Other Dramatic Pieces, 47); (h) the narrator in Company describing the experience of ‘one on his back in the dark’ (7); (i) the narrator of ‘He Is Barehead’ describing one ‘staring before him, and even all about him, hour after hour, day after day, and never seeing a thing’ (For to End, 26); and (j) Winnie's anxiety, in Happy Days, about her plight should Willie ever depart: Simply gaze before me with compressed lips. (Long pause while she does so. No more plucking.) Not another word as long as I drew breath, nothing to break the silence of this place. (Pause.) Save possibly, now and then, every now and then, a sigh into my looking-glass. (21) As the last phrase (‘a sigh into my looking-glass’) of Winnie's utterance suggests, a mirror relation obtains in Beckettian mimesis between apprehending the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 620-632
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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