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ABSTRACTS

Rina Kim (University of Warwick, UK)
Memories and Melancholia in Beckett’s Four Novellas and Molloy

    In Samuel Beckett’s Four Novellas and Molloy, written immediately after his self-imposed exile to France, the male narrators obsessively tell a story of separation from home and from the female characters. In the narrators’ memories, in contrast to a more conspicuously Irish setting in Beckett’s early fiction, a remembered landscape becomes uncanny, both familiar and alien although it is resonant with Ireland, and the names of the female become equally uncertain. In the Four Novellas and Molloy, there is a fascinating tension arisen from the narrators’ contradictory feelings towards fading yet haunting memories about both Ireland and women: their attempts to exorcise the memories and their compulsion to repeat the story. This paper will argue that the narrators’ ambivalent attitude towards memories about severance with Ireland and women in general and the mother in particular not only corresponds to Freud’s model of melancholia but also is closely related to Beckett’s exile. Freud, for instance, in his essay ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ (1915), states that mourning and melancholia are the reaction to the loss of a loved object, and in the category of the loss he includes the loss of one’s country. In the case of self-imposed exile, like Beckett’s case, it could be suggested as being closer to melancholia than mourning since one can easily blame oneself for the loss as he/she “has willed it”. Proposing that Beckett’s exile has influenced his representation of loss in the Four Novellas and Molloy, this paper will explore how the male narrators show pathological symptoms of melancholia towards memories about Ireland and the female characters by using Freud’s model of melancholia. This model will also shed light on convergences between Ireland and the female in the narrators’ memories, and their contradictory attachment to the memories even if that is against their wish.



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