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Nicholas Allen (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Samuel Beckett’s More Pricks than Kicks plays repeatedly on ideas of time, Henri Bergson and Albert Einstein elements of conversations that revolve, parodically, between sense and reason (even if, as Chas has it in ‘A Wet Night’, it is ‘the smart thing now to call Bergson a cod’). The stories themselves ask questions of form and experience to suggest how meaning is generated by sequence and habit. In this, More Pricks than Kicks develops concerns addressed in two other contemporary experiments in time and its disorder in James Joyce’s Work in Progress and William Butler Yeats’s A Vision. Situating Beckett’s work of the late 1920s and early 1930s in context of these works (and Beckett was one of the earliest commentators on Joyce’s work post-Ulysses in his contribution to Our Exagmination Round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress), this paper argues that the specific experience of Irish independence and its aftermath influenced Beckett to think of history as a repetitive site of unresolved conflict, time a promise only of ‘torment in the terms and in the intervals a measure of ease’.
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