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Jose Francisco Fernandez (University of Almeria, Spain)
Problems with Beckett’s Poetics

Samuel Beckett´s first novel, Dream of Fair to middling Women has been generally defined since its publication in 1992 as Beckett´s conscious and complex departure from the narrative tradition in the West. Critics have pointed out the novel´s disregard for unity and cohesion, the absence of a central plan, the range of unstable characters, the undermining authorial interventions and the author´s distrust towards a meaning beyond the text. It has been thus rightly suggested that Dream… anticipates many of Beckett´s traits in his subsequent fiction. The object of this paper is to extend the argument further by examining Beckett´s Dream… in terms of Mikhail Bakhtin´s ideas on the novel, as they were exposed in Problems of Dostoevsky´s Poetics. I will try to argue that Dream… corresponds to the reverse of an ideal in narrative art, defined by Bakhtin as the polyphonic novel. If the narrator in Dostoevsky´s works was engaged with the characters in a continuous dialogue where no one exerted a final authority, in Dream… the reader beholds not the opposite struggle of forces, not an omniscient command of the narrative, but the dismantling of the whole structure. The narrator in Beckett´s novel strives to control an anarchic mélange of voices while at the same time relishes the prospect of turmoil that he is creating. The paper highlights the features that make of Dream… an anti-text in which polyphony turns into cacophony, an early exponent of Beckett´s abdication of a wholly coherent explanation for the work of art.

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