The evolving role of philosophy within the novels of Samuel Beckett

  • Ryan Rushton

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    In recent years the study of Samuel Beckett's work has moved into increasingly specialised and archival areas. With the sheer wealth of work undertaken since the field began in the1960s and the availability of previously unobtainable materials this was somewhat of an inevitability. The sub-field of “Beckett and Philosophy”, into which this thesis most comfortably falls, has become so saturated with differing approaches that one might be forgiven for thinking new work which examines the core ideas guiding Beckett's writing redundant. One of the key contentions of this thesis is that owing to the resistance Beckett's novels offer to critical discourse, the task of understanding and explaining them is never complete. Based on this belief, I have attempted a new survey of the evolving place philosophy occupies within Beckett's novels, seeking not to discount approaches such as the archival work already mentioned, but to incorporate them into the fundamental question of what these books mean.

    Rather than relying upon only one theoretical approach, I attempt to draw from a variety of philosophical and literary sources, in a process free enough to work with the developmental refining of Beckett's novels throughout the years. In the first chapters on his early books, Murphy and Watt, I argue they engage in a process of bricolage, bringing out their own philosophical perspectives in an illustrative manner. The middle section of the thesis looks at the four 1946 novellas and the first work of The Trilogy, Molloy, as representative of a shift in Beckett's writing toward modes that employ form and content symbiotically in order to respond actively to metaphysical possibilities. In the last two chapters on Malone Dies and The Unnamable I examine the process of reduction that leads Beckett to focus largely on form, and the consequences this may have for the achievements of previous work.

    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTimothy Morris (Supervisor)


    • Beckett
    • English
    • Philsophy
    • Novels

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