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Jennifer Stebick (John Carroll University)
When one looks for criticism and scholarship on Samuel Beckett’s Play, one finds the market more or less “cornered” by Florida State’s S.E. Gontarski. One cannot deny the validity in Gotarski’s arguments about Beckett’s transformation from playwright to theatrical artist in what he calls Beckett’s “late theatre,” but perhaps Play is not the catalyst for this change; perhaps we do not have to accommodate Play with a “liberal” view of Modernism—that performance is text. In my essay, I argue that in Play, one can see a more conventional, Joycean Modernism, that the text is autonomous art and the performance an outside referent, that Beckett’s drama indicates a need to cling to traditional Modern aesthetics of authorship. Indeed, one may even go as far as to say that Play exposes the inadequacy of performance and how performance violates texts, while it also dramatizes the playwright’s struggle between loyalty to his texts and their performances.
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