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James Lyons (Stanford University)
Not I combines a narrative and a physical presence of an implied "character" speaking or listening to a discourse. This model of figure and text dominates Beckett's dramatic writing from 1972 onwards. For example, in the later short play, Rockaby, a woman in a rocking chair listens to a recorded narrative outlining a terse biography as she moves rhythmically in and out of light. In the more enigmatic prose narrative, Ill Seen Ill Said, the text reports a slightly more expansive biography of an old woman that may refer to the speaker or to an observed or invented presence that the narrator describes. In witnessing a performance of Rockaby, I assume that the character of the woman whose behavior is detailed in the narrative text is identical to the figure represented by the physical presence of the actress. In the prose piece the narrative becomes more equivocal and the connection between speaker and text more hypothetical. Looking at Beckett’s dramatic works such as Not I, That Time, Piece of a Monologue, Rockaby, and Ohio Impromptu from a behavioral perspective, I find similar presentations of a figure attempting to resolve a self-consciousness image of the self by implementing two rhetorical strategies: by reporting or inventing of a biographical narrative that focuses upon a moment near death and, secondly, by distancing the narrative in a refusal to merge its principal figure with the act of speaking.
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