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Felicia McCarren (Tulane University)
Stench (Beaubourg, 1986)

In Beckett's stage oeuvre, the question of unrepresentability is played out in representations problematizing visual resemblance. Beckett famously set the plays in no-man's-lands that he did not wish directors to localize; they were not to be made to resemble post-war Britain or apocalyptic New York. Yet visual resemblances between Godot's theater images and other, possibly inspirational sources, surface, and in examining one film that might be read as a source for Godot, and Beckett's sole cinema scenario, Film, questions are raised about the visual resemblance of the (photographic) image as a Piercean icon, as it challenges both characters and their author. In a different register, Beckett's works deploy stench as a model for what cannot be represented-- on film or onstage-- for example, in couples' or families' un-relation, the dissolution of property and propriety. Stench became more than an idea at the Beaubourg--Centre Pompidou retrospective for Beckett's 80th birthday. Free access to video presentations of the plays produced contexts in which the audience rivaled Beckett's characters onscreen, encouraging reflection on how that medium--not one chosen by Beckett, but tolerated by him-- made possible the presentation of the unrepresentable.

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