Kumiko Kiuchi (University of Sussex, UK)
Oxymoronic Perception and Experience
of Genres in Samuel Beckett's writings from the late 1960s
This paper aims to explore the idea and possibility of oxymoronic expressions of 'perceptions' (vision and audition) in Beckett's writing from the late 1960s onwards. By explicating these expressions in light of Beckett's experiments/experience in different genres, i.e., theatre, radio, film, prose and television, the paper will analyse the interdependent relationship between the 'translatabilities' of 'oxymoronic expressions' and the plurality of genres.
Firstly the paper will review how Beckett studies have changed their approach to the problem of genre over the last three decades. It contrasts the early studies, which tend to draw out the specificity of genre through the intrinsic reading of Beckett's texts, with the recent studies, which are more inclined to analyze the influence of modern science and technology on Beckett's writing. It suggests that the approach of recent studies can sometimes overlook the intrinsic importance of Beckett's writing and therefore that of language.
Secondly the paper tries to reconsider the problem of genre through the analysis of oxymoronic expressions in Beckett's texts. It focuses on his work, especially his prose and his television plays, written after the late 1960s and the 80s, i.e. following his experiments in genres. The word 'oxymoron' refers to 'a figure of speech or expressed idea in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction'. In Beckett's writings oxymoronic expressions most frequently concern perceptions and often refer to the impossibility of representation, as in 'Ghost' Trio' the door is 'imperceptibly ajar' and in '...but the clouds...' the uttered 'words' are 'inaudible'. Through this analysis, the paper will argue the following points: 1) Oxymoronic expressions (illegible or unrepresentable as they are) actually function as the motor of narrative in each Beckett text; 2) Oxymoronic expressions can be read or understood only in the light of the plurality of genres. In other words it is only through the experience of this plurality that we can render oxymoronic expressions legible for the first time; 3) On the other hand the plurality of genres is conditioned by the 'illegibility' or 'unrepresentability' as 'translatabilities' (potential to be read) that underlie the oxymoronic expressions. It is not that genre is plural from the beginning but that the enactment of oxymoronic expressions unconditionally throws light on the possibility of relationship between genres.
Finally the end of the paper reconsiders how the question of language relates to that of genre in Beckett's writing. It reassesses recent Beckett studies regarding the problem of 'language (s)' and of genre/media. It will also reconsider the possibility of Beckett's writings and try to identify the task of Beckett studies of today.