Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath

“[James McNaughton’s] Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath explores Beckett’s literary responses to the political maelstroms of his formative and middle years: the Irish civil war and the crisis of commitment in 1930s Europe, the rise of fascism and the atrocities of World War II. Archive yields a Beckett who monitored propaganda in speeches and newspapers, and whose creative work engages with specific political strategies, rhetoric, and events. Finally, Beckett’s political aesthetic sharpens into focus.

Deep within form, Beckett models ominous historical developments as surely as he satirizes artistic and philosophical interpretations that overlook them. He burdens aesthetic production with guilt: imagination and language, theater and narrative, all parallel political techniques. Beckett comically embodies conservative religious and political doctrines; he plays Irish colonial history against contemporary European horrors; he examines aesthetic complicity in effecting atrocity and covering it up. This book offers insightful, original, and vivid readings of Beckett’s work up to Three Novels and Endgame.”

— Oxford University Press

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Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath

Oxford University Press: “[James McNaughton’s] Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath explores Beckett’s creative responses to the Irish civil war and the crisis of commitment in 1930s Europe, to the rise of fascism, and the atrocities of World War II. Grounded in archival material, the volume reads in Beckett’s letters and German Diaries his personal response to propaganda he saw leading to war, and illustrates his creative work’s intimate engagement with specific political strategies, rhetoric, and events.

Deep into literary form, syntax, and language, Beckett reflects ominous political and historical changes, and satirizes aesthetic and philosophical interpretations that overlook them. He burdens aesthetic production with guilt for how imagination and language, theatre, and narrative parallel political techniques, the aspiration to both effect atrocity and cover it up. This book develops new readings of Beckett’s early and middle work up toThree Novels and Endgame.”

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