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Ulrika Maude (Durham University UK)
“whole body like gone”: Beckett and technology

Beckett’s work foregrounds technology both in its media and as an actual presence. Beckett’s fascination with radio, film and television are obvious examples, but the textual strategies of modernist writing can themselves be seen as analogous to technology; in Beckett, this is further perpetuated by the endless repetitions and permutations in the texts which, as Hugh Kenner has argued, anticipate information code and function as a “proto-computer language.” Technology also has a prominent actual presence in Beckett’s writing. The stage and media works famously incorporate a tape recorder, megaphones and loudspeakers, as well as other prosthetic devices such as spectacles and lenses. Examples of prostheses can also be found in the prose works, most obviously in Molloy’s bicycle and crutches, Malone’s stick or the vial in The Calmative, which functions as one of the several markers of medical technologies in Beckett’s writing. On the one hand, technology in Beckett has the role of an auxiliary organ, an extension of the central nervous system which complements and augments the body. However, in Film and Eh Joe, the camera functions as an “antagonistic pursuer”; in the latter, the progression of camera close-ups, while enhancing the fleshy and fallible human eye, ultimately reduces Joe to a “collection of fluorescing dots” (Kalb). Similarly, Beckett’s use of spotlight in stage plays such as Play and Catastrophe, is indicative of a loss of agency, making technology complicit with the subject’s eradication. This paper will examine the ambiguous role of technology in Beckett’s writing, with particular emphasis on Beckett’s television plays.

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