Literary criticism

11 November 2016

The auther of this essay is interested in finding the meaning of absurdity, Beckett is master of absurd theater, and Krapp’s last tape is one of the most influencial plays in absured theater which is deconstructed by nature. Not just the work and auther but the approach itself help the auther of this essay to find the true meaning of absurdity which itself leads human, after passing a chaos, to absolute peace. In the following paragraphs, first there is a biography of Samual Beckett the auther of Krapp’s last tape.

Then the discussion goes through deconstruction which is not actually an approach but a reading stategy and short part is devoted to introsucing Lacan’s model of human psyche. Afterward the application of deconstruction and some other points on Krapp’s last tape is placed. At the end there is a conclusion of all what the auther of this essay trying to say. A Biography of Samual Beckett “Samuel Barclay Beckett (April 13, 1906 – December 22, 1989) was an Irish avant-garde and absurdist playwright, novelist, poet and theatre director.

Literary criticism Essay Example

His writings, both in English and French, provide bleak, and darkly comedic, ruminations on the human condition. He is simultaneously considered as one of the last modernists and one of the first postmodernists. He was a main writer in what the critic, Martin Esslin, termed the “Theatre of the Absurd. ” The works associated with this movement share the belief that human existence has neither meaning nor purpose, and ultimately communication breaks down, often in a black comedy manner.

Beckett studied French, Italian and English at Trinity College Dublin from 1923-1927, whereupon graduating he took up a teaching post in Paris. While in Paris, he met the Irish novelist James Joyce, who became an inspiration and mentor to the young Beckett. He published his first work, a critical essay endorsing Joyce’s work entitled “Dante…Bruno. Vico…Joyce” in 1929. Throughout the 1930s he continued to write and publish many essays and reviews, eventually beginning work on novels.

During World War II, Beckett joined the French Resistance as a courier after the Germans began their occupation in 1940. Beckett’s unit was betrayed in August of 1942, and he and Suzanne fled on foot to the small village of Roussillon in the south of France. They continued to aid the Resistance by storing arms in his backyard. He was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and Medaille de la Resistance by the French government for his wartime efforts. Beckett was reticent to speak about this era of his life.

Beckett continued writing novels throughout the 1940s, and had the first part of his story “The End” published in Jean-Paul Sartre’s magazine Les Temps Modernes, the second part of which was never published in the magazine. Beckett began writing his most famous play, Waiting for Godot, in October 1948 and completed it in January 1949. He originally wrote this piece, like most of his subsequent works, in French first and then translated it to English. It was published in 1952 and premiered in 1953, garnering positive and controversial reactions in Paris.

The English version did not appear until two years later, first premiered in London in 1955 to mixed reviews and had a successful run in New York City after being a flop in Miami. The critical and commercial success of Waiting for Godot opened the door to a playwriting career for Beckett. He wrote many other well-known plays, including Endgame (1957), Krapp’s Last Tape (1958, and surprisingly written in English), Happy Days (1961, also in English) and Play (1963). He was awarded the 1961 International Publishers’ Formentor Prize along with Jorge Luis Borges.

In that same year, Beckett married Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil in a civil ceremony, though the two had been together since 1938. He also began a relationship with BBC script editor Barbara Bray, which lasted, concurrently to his marriage to Suzanne, until his death, in 1989. Beckett is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. He was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature. He died on December 22, 1989, of complications from emphysema and possibly Parkinson’s disease five months after his wife, Suzanne.

The two are interred together in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. ”(1) Methodology and Approach “Deconstruction, as applied in the criticism of literature, designates a theory and practice of reading which questions and claims to “subvert” or “undermine” the assumption that the system of language provides grounds thatare adequate to establish the boundaries, the coherence or unity, and the determinatemeanings of a literary text. Typically, a deconstructive reading setsout to show that conflicting forces within the text itself serve to dissipate theseeming definiteness of its tructure and meanings into an indefinite array ofincompatible and undecidable possibilities. The originator and namer of deconstruction is the French thinker Jacques Derrida, among whose precursors were Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) andMartin Heidegger (1889- 1976)—German philosophers who put to radical question fundamental philosophical concepts such as “knowledge,” “truth,” and “identity”—as well as Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), whose psychoanalysis violated traditional concepts of a coherent individual consciousness and a unitary self.

Derrida presented his basic views in three books, all published in 1967, entitled Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, and Speech and Phenomena; since then he has reiterated, expanded, and applied those views in a rapid sequence of publications. Derrida’s writings are complex and elusive, and the summary here can only indicate some of their main tendencies.

His point of vantage is what, in Of Grammatology, he calls “the axial proposition that there is no outside-thetext” (“il n’y a rien hors du texte,” or alternatively “il n’y a pas de hors-texte”). Like all Derrida’s key terms and statements, this has multiple significations, but a primary one is that a reader cannot get beyond verbal signs to any things-in-themselves which, because they are independent of the system of language, might serve to anchor a determinable meaning.

Derrida’s reiterated claim is that not only all Western philosophies and theories of language, but all Western uses of language, hence all Western culture, are logocentric; that is, they are centered or grounded on a “logos” (which in Greek signified both “word” and “rationality”) or, as stated in a phrase he adopts from Heidegger, they rely on “the metaphysics of presence. ” They are logocentric, according to Derrida, in part because they are phonocentric; that is, they grant, implicitly or explicitly, logical “priority,” or “privilege,” to speech over writing as the model for analyzing all discourse.

By logos, or presence, Derrida signifies what he also calls an “ultimate referent”—a self-certifying and self-sufficient ground, or foundation, available to us totally outside the play of language itself, that is directly present to our awareness and serves to “center” (that is, to anchor, organize, and guarantee) the structure of the linguistic system, and as a result suffices to fix the bounds, coherence, and determinate meanings of any spoken or written utterance within that system. (On Derrida’s “decentering” of structuralism, see poststructuralism. Historical instances of claimed foundations for language are God as the guarantor of its validity, or a Platonic form of the true reference of a general term, or a Hegelian “telos” or goal toward which all process strives, or an intention to signify something determinate that is directly present to the awareness of the person who initiates an utterance. Derrida undertakes to show that these and all other attempts by Western philosophy to establish an absolute ground in presence, and all implicit reliance on such a ground in using language, are bound to fail.

Especially, he directs his skeptical exposition against the phonocentric assumption—which he regards as central in Western theories of language— that at the instant of speaking, the “intention” of a speaker to mean something determinate by an utterance is immediately and fully present in the speaker’s consciousness, and is also communicable to an auditor. (See intention, under interpretation and hermeneutics. ) In Derrida’s view, we must always say more, and other, than we intend to say.

Derrida expresses his alternative conception that the play of linguistic meanings is “undecidable” in terms derived from Saussure’s view that in a signsystem, both the signifiers (the material elements of a language, whether spoken or written) and the signifieds (their conceptual meanings) owe their seeming identities, not to their own “positive” or inherent features, but to their “differences” from other speech-sounds, written marks, or conceptual significations. See Saussure, in linguistics in modern criticism and in semiotics. ) From this view Derrida evolves his radical claim that the features that, in any particular utterance, would serve to establish the signified meaning of a word, are never “present” to us in their own positive identity, since both these features and their significations are nothing other than a network of differences.

On the other hand, neither can these identifying features be said to be strictly “absent”; instead, in any spoken or written utterance, the seeming meaning is the result only of a “self-effacing” trace—self-effacing in that one is not aware of it— which consists of all the nonpresent differences from other elements in the language system that invest the utterance with its “effect” of having a meaning in its own right. The consequence, in Derrida’s view, is that we can never, in any instance of speech or writing, have a demonstrably fixed and decidable present meaning.

He says that the differential play (jeu) of language may produce the “effects” of decidable meanings in an utterance or text, but asserts that these are merely effects and lack a ground that would justify certainty in interpretation. In a characteristic move, Derrida coins the portmanteau term differance, in which, he says, he uses the spelling “-ance” instead of “-enee” to indicate a fusion of two senses of the French verb “differer”: to be different, and to defer.

This double sense points to the phenomenon that, on the one hand, a text proffers the “effect” of having a significance that is the product of its difference, but that on the other hand, since this proffered significance can never come to rest in an actual “presence”—or in a language-independent reality Derrida calls a transcendental signified—its determinate specification is deferred from one linguistic interpretation to another in a movement or “play,”as Derrida puts it, en abime—that is, in an endless regress.

To Derrida’s view,then, it is difference that makes possible the meaning whose possibility (as adecidable meaning) it necessarily baffles. As Derrida says in another of his coinages, the meaning of any spoken or written utterance, by the action of opposing internal linguistic forces, is ineluctably disseminated—a term which includes, among its deliberately contradictory significations, that of having an effect of meaning (a “semantic” effect), of dispersing meanings among innumerable alternatives, and of negating any specific meaning.

There is thus no ground, in the incessant play of difference that constitutes any language, for attributing a decidable meaning, or even a finite set of determinately multiple meanings (which he calls “polysemism”), to any utterance that we speak or write. (What Derrida calls “polysemism” is what William Empson called “ambiguity”; see ambiguity. As Derrida puts it in Writing and Difference: “The absence of a transcendental signified extends the domain and the play of signification infinitely” (p. 280) Several of Derrida’s skeptical procedures have been especially influentialin deconstructive literary criticism. One is to subvert the innumerable binary oppositions—such as speech/writing, nature/culture, truth/error, male/female— which are essential structural elements in logocentric language.

Derrida shows that such oppositions constitute a tacit hierarchy, in which the first term functions as privileged and superior and the second term as derivative and inferior. Derrida’s procedure is to invert the hierarchy, by showing that the secondary term can be made out to be derivative from, or a special case of, the primary term; but instead of stopping at this reversal, he goes on to destabilize both hierarchies, leaving them in a condition of undecidability. Among deconstructive literary critics, one such demonstration is to take the standard hierarchical opposition of literature/criticism, to invert it so as to make criticism primary and literature secondary, and then to represent, as an undecidable set of oppositions, the assertions that criticism is a species of literature and that literature is a species of criticism. A second operation influential in literary criticism is Derrida’s deconstruction of any attempt to establish a securely determinate bound, or limit, or margin, to a textual work so as to differentiate what is “inside” from what is “outside” the work. A third operation is his analysis of the inherent nonlogicality, or “rhetoricity”—that is, the inescapable reliance on rhetorical figures and figurative language—in all uses of language, including in what philosophers have traditionally claimed to be the strictly literal and logical arguments of philosophy.

Derrida, for example, emphasizes the indispensable reliance in all modes of discourse on metaphors that are assumed to be merely convenient substitutes for literal, or “proper” meanings; then he undertakes to show, on the one hand, that metaphors cannot be reduced to literal meanings but, on the other hand, that supposedly literal terms are themselves metaphors whose metaphoric nature has been forgotten.

Derrida’s characteristic way of proceeding is not to lay out his deconstructive concepts and operations in a systematic exposition, but to allow them to emerge in a sequence of exemplary close readings of passages from writings that range from Plato through Jean-Jacques Rousseau to the present era—writings that, by standard classification, are mainly philosophical, although occasionally literary. He describes his procedure as a “double reading. ” Initially, that is, he interprets a text as, in the standard fashion, “lisible” (readable or intelligible), since it engenders “effects” of having eterminate meanings. But this reading, Derrida says, is only “provisional,” as a stage toward a second, or deconstructive “critical reading,” which disseminates the provisional meaning into an indefinite range of significations that, he claims, always involve (in a term taken from logic) an aporia—an insuperable deadlock, or “double bind,” of incompatible or contradictory meanings which are “undecidable,” in that we lack any sufficient ground for choosing among them.

The result, in Derrida’s rendering, is that each text deconstructs itself, by undermining its own supposed grounds and dispersing itself into incoherent meanings in a way, he claims, that the deconstructive reader neither initiates nor produces; deconstruction is something that simply “happens” in a critical reading. Derrida asserts, furthermore, that he has no option except toattempt to communicate his deconstructive readings in the prevailing logocentric language, hence that his own interpretive texts deconstruct themselves in the very act of deconstructing the texts to which they are applied.

He insists, however, that “deconstruction has nothing to do with destruction,” and that all the standard uses of language will inevitably go on; what he undertakes, he says, is merely to “situate” or “reinscribe” any text in a system of difference which shows the instability of the effects to which the text owes its seeming intelligibility. Derrida did not propose deconstruction as a mode of literary criticism, but as a way of reading all kinds of texts so as to reveal and subvert the tacit metaphysical presuppositions of Western thought.

His views and procedures, however, have been taken up by literary critics, especially in America, who have adapted Derrida’s “critical reading” to the kind of close reading of particular literary texts which had earlier been the familiar procedure of the New Criticism; they do so, however, Paul de Man has said, in a way which reveals that new-critical close readings “were not nearly close enough. ” The end results of the two kinds of close reading are utterly diverse.

New Critical explications of texts had undertaken to show that a great literary work, in the tight internal relations of its figurative and paradoxical meanings, constitutes a freestanding, bounded, and organic entity of multiplex yet determinate meanings. On the contrary, a radically deconstructive close reading undertakes to show that a literary text lacks a “totalized” boundary that makes it an entity, much less an organic unity; also that the text, by a play of internal counter-forces, disseminates into an indefinite range of self-conflicting significations.

The claim is made by some deconstructive critics that a literary text is superior to nonliterary texts, but only because, by its self-reference, it shows itself to be more aware of features that all texts inescapably share: its fictionality, its lack of a genuine ground, and especially its patent “rhetoricity,” or use of figurative procedures—features that make any “right reading” or “correct reading” of a text impossible. Paul de Man was the most innovative and influential of the critics whoapplied deconstruction to the reading of literary texts.

In de Man’s later writings,he represented the basic conflicting forces within a text under the headingsof “grammar” (the code or rules of language) and “rhetoric” (the unruly play of figures and tropes), and aligned these with other opposed forces, such as the “constative” and “performative” linguistic functions that had been distinguished by John Austin (see speech-act theory). In its grammatical aspect, language persistently aspires to determinate, referential, and logically ordered assertions, which are persistently dispersed by its rhetorical aspect into an open set of non-referential and illogical possibilities.

A literary text, then, of inner necessity says one thing and performs another, or as de Man alternatively puts the matter, a text “simultaneously asserts and denies the authority of its own rhetorical mode” (Allegories of Reading, 1979, p. 17). The inevitable result, for a critical reading, is an aporia of “vertiginous possibilities. ” Barbara Johnson, once a student of de Man’s, has applied deconstructive readings not only to literary texts, but to the writings of other critics, includingDerrida himself.

Her succinct statement of the aim and methods of a deconstructive reading is often cited: Deconstruction is not synonymous with destruction The de-construction of a text does not proceed by random doubt or arbitrary subversion, but by the careful teasing out of warring forces of signification within the text itself. If anything is destroyed in a deconstructive reading, it is not the text, but the claim to unequivocal domination of one mode of signifyingover another. (The Critical Difference, 1980, p. 5) J.

Hillis Miller, once the leading American representative of the Geneva School of consciousness-criticism, is now one of the most prominent of deconstructors, known especially for his application of this type of critical reading to prose fiction. Miller’s statement of his critical practice indicates how drastic the result may be of applying to works of literature the concepts and procedures that Derrida had developed for deconstructing the foundations of Western metaphysics: Deconstruction as a mode of interpretation works by a careful and circumspect entering of each textual labyrinth….

The deconstructive critic seeks to find, by this process of retracing, the element in the system studied which is alogical, the thread in the text in question which will unravel it all, or the loose stone which will pull down the whole building. The deconstruction, rather, annihilates the ground on which the building stands by showing that the text has already annihilated the ground, knowingly or unknowingly. Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of a text but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself.

A limited
time offer!
Save Time On Research and Writing. Hire a Professional to Get Your 100% Plagiarism Free Paper