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Call for Papers
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Patrick Bixby (Arizona State University)
Beckett’s trilogy, my paper will argue, explores the failure of developmental narratives that sustained bourgeois culture in post-independence Ireland, thus challenging both colonialist and nationalist claims to the unified subject. While the conventional Bildungsroman, or novel of development, is dedicated to composing the integrity of personal identity—an integrity which accompanies identification with the social collective—Beckett’s parodic rewriting of the genre undermines the guarantees of individual formation, coherence, and integration. Remnants of the Bildungroman tradition appear, for instance, in repeated references to the education of the trilogy’s narrator-protagonists. The genre often calls on Enlightenment narratives of education as a key to what Wilhelm von Humboldt called the “spiritual and moral training of the nation,” which promotes the development of the individual into a fully identified and socialized citizen of the nation-state. Education, in this sense, assists in realizing the autonomy of the individual to such a degree that he or she is suited to the ethical demands of social integration. Colonialism calls on the same narrative of development to justify its educational process, which in claiming to promote the ethical and economic advancement of the native populations, also allowed it to solidify control through the requirement that these subjects adopt the cultural forms and internalize the values of the occupying power. Beckett’s parody of the bildungsroman produces “counter-narratives” of development, of a postcolonial identity that is divided, ambivalent, and in constant flux, as it questions the formation of autonomous subjectivity through a series of regressive narrative voices.
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