The critical figure : negativity in selected works by Proust, Joyce and Beckett
Watson, William David
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This dissertation represents an interpretation of the different forms of negativity in the modernist work that can be understood in terms of that which is unsaid, unsayable, or any other means of refusing to give an affirmative proposition regarding the world the work describes. It explores this negativity as both a representation of that which cannot be represented, and as an operational negativity, or negation, that takes part in the unmaking of the work's figures. The function of this negativity, as interpreted in Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (1913-1927), James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) and Krapp's Last Tape (1959) by Samuel Beckett, is to rewrite the representations of the work. Negativity is then also understood as a transformation and conditioning of elements already present in the literary work, that lead to ambivalent and problematic representations in the work. In this sense, negativity can be understood as a form of rewriting of the work's representations. The interpretations of the works of Proust, Joyce and Beckett are guided by this understanding, as given in the introduction, of negativity. In the analysis of Proust's novel, in "The Unmaking of Proust: Negation and Errors in Remembrance of Things Past", this form of negativity is situated in relation to Proust's handling of epistemological questions and mimetic references to reality in his work. The analysis of Joyce's work in "The Wandering of Language in James Joyce's Ulysses" discusses his treatment of language and the origins of language as being characterized by a negation that increases the difficulty of the language, and attempts to negate its origins. Finally, in the analysis of Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape", in "Beckett, Proust, and the End of Literature", it is shown that negativity conditions both the reception of the influence of Proust by Beckett, and the play's attempt to suggest the end of writing. In conclusion the dissertation returns to the idea of negativity as a form of rewriting, and briefly indicates that the function of negativity in these novels can be understood as a form of invention.
- Humanities