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Tomasz Wisniewski (University of Warmia & Mazury, Olsztyn, Poland)
Literary aspect of Samuel Beckett's stage drama

In this paper I am going to concentrate on the dualistic nature of Samuel Beckett's stage drama. My research entails a close analysis of the relations between a) primary text, b) secondary text (didaskalia) and c) visual/aural imagery. As it has so frequently been noticed, Beckett's drama is characterized by a precise textual arrangement. Simultaneously, the text of the drama projects a rather incoherent and chaotic theatrical performance. It is to say that the semantics of the dramatic text (treated in literary - not theatrical - terms) clashes with the semantics of the project of theatrical performance (the one delivered in 'the theatre of the mind'). Thus, strict patterns recognized by the reader have nothing in common with the total confusion experienced by the audience.

It means that Beckett semantically employs basic dichotomy of the dramatic text. On the one hand, by introducing the perspective of the reader, he focuses our attention on the verbal dimension of drama. Without any doubt, his text is always to be read. On the other hand, the significance of the visual and aural imagery implies - already in the process of reading - the perspective of the audience whose confused experience is crucial for the created meanings.

The main objective of my paper is to analyze the meaning of such dichotomy rather than to enumerate examples of this curious discrepancy. My examination of the clash between the written/text and the spoken/utterance results in two contrasting fields of associations whose mutual relationships are often decisive for the semantics. I will attempt to illustrate that the written is rigidly linked with the paradigmatic equivalence of various - often remote - textual levels. It is to say that strenuous work of a reader may - after all - lead to recognition of completeness, precision of arrangement and coherence of the text. The spoken, on the other hand, is related with syntagmatic contiguity, which leads to the experience of fragmentation, chaos and incoherence that characterizes linear reception. All in all, while focusing on two modes of reception (audience vs. reader), I am going to examine Beckett's intentional interplay between the chaos of the performance and the exact arrangement of the text.

Even though the paper will be delivered in English, both English and French versions of Beckett's works shall be examined. So as to my theoretical background, it comprises the semiotics (as understood by Yuri Lotman) and George Steiner's concept of comparative literature. Finally, this paper will be based on my PhD dissertation (completed with honors in June 2005 at Gdansk University, Poland).

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