Julien Piat (Université Stendhal-Grenoble 3, France)
Syntactical Experimentation and Poetics of “Mal Dire” in Beckett’s Trilogy
The poetics of “Mal Dire” in Beckett’s novels is identified and very-well known – but only in its metaphysical and philosophical aims. The topic is never addressed in linguistic terms. Commenting on Molloy, Malone meurt and L’Innommable’s style, commentators surprisingly forget to describe the facts style is obviously based upon. Here is the gap I would like to fill.
To inquire how the effect (“mal dire”) is conveyed, I would first study how Beckett constantly plays with some syntactic structures – such as predication – through multiple series of dislocations and disjunctions, so that the canonic “sentence” finally disappears. What is at stake is the way the reader is thus led to confront a double loss: as the syntactic markers (usual word order and use of punctuation) tend to be erased or re-defined, reading turns out to be a destabilizing experience; as a consequence, sense and meaning are receding.
To give such an impression, and to carry out his philosophical message, Beckett carves its own language through a phenomenological use of syntax. To investigate this issue, I would like to question the links between the distorted constructions I have just alluded to and the power of representation – of mimesis – they develop. Focusing on micro-structural analyses, I will demonstrate how separating words that are usually associated within the same predicative movement gives vent to an iconic logic of immediacy in which the whole world is said as something disordered and senseless.
The modular model I will use will show how syntactic devices, semantic and pragmatic effects are the very base of Beckett’s metaphysical discourse: that will stress how an anguishing – and grinning (let us remember Beckett plays with syntax) – sense of absurd spreads out through such linguistic achievements.