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There is an urgent need to elaborate a theory of affects for Lacanian psychoanalysis. This is Colette Soler’s intention in her book Lacanian Affects: The Function of Affect in Lacan’s Work (2015). Soler announces that she will provide a systematic overview of Lacan’s copious yet misunderstood theses on affects. Indeed, her book engages with affects like “anguish” (Fink has decided to choose this term to render the French word of angoisse, instead of the more common “anxiety”) but also sadness, joy, guilt, boredom, moroseness, anger, shame, love, hatred, enthusiasm, and so on. Soler rightly points out Lacan’s Freudian point of departure and highlights his distinctive contribution, even though she acknowledges that his concept of affect was fraught with tensions, false starts, or even contradictions. Lacan, as usual, offers brilliant insights couched in impenetrable and punning prose. When closing Soler’s book, though, one cannot help registering a certain degree of frustration: the original promise of presenting a clear and systematic Lacanian theory of affects has not been fulfilled; too often, the book remains mimetic in tone and style and not explanatory enough.
Far from being celebrated, literature in Beckett’s texts represents something to be avoided at all costs. “But it is not at this late stage of my relation,” Moran asserts near the end of Molloy, “that I intend to give way to literature.” What is this thing that Moran, not unlike his “vice-exister” Malone, must be “on [his] guard” against – and that he invokes like a disbeliever muttering a blasphemy? A negative definition of sorts: in this narrative on the verge of self-cancellation, literature would be a clear statement of relation, an account of “how this result was obtained”; specifically, it would relate how the “dim man” whom Moran encounters in the Molloy country comes to be discovered “stretched on the ground, his head in a pulp” – by the speaker who has presumably bludgeoned him to death. And it would provide an experience of a certain value and pleasure: “it would be something worth reading.”
It is an understatement to say that we have a “new Beckett” on our hands. Indeed, the corpus of Beckett’s works that we read today has little in common with the Beckett canon of just a decade ago. In less than ten years, a textual revolution has taken place and it is still going on. It combines the discovery of unpublished notes and manuscripts, their digital editions, and new critical approaches attempting to take stock of a fast-evolving corpus. The publication of the four volumes of the Letters of Samuel Beckett that began in 2009 has brought a host of hitherto unknown details about Beckett’s readings, meetings, loves, and interests. Daniel Gunn has calculated that Beckett wrote an average of one letter a day during his active career, and he condenses in this book’s pages the many lessons one can derive from them.
In the “Proteus” episode of Joyce’s Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus famously ruminates on the ineluctable modality of the visible and the audible, mentioning the notions of the “nebeneinander” [side by side] and the “nacheinander” [one after the other] Joyce’s source was probably Otto Weininger, who may, in his turn, be alluding to Lessing’s Laocoon.Lessing’s distinction between the Nacheinander of poetry and the Nebeneinander of visual arts was challenged in Joyce’s last work, Finnegans Wake.
Worstward Ho’s injunction to repeatedly but somehow amelioratively fail has shown up in a number of scenes of writing since the last time I trotted it out as an epigraph to one of my own discursive failures. The words are tattooed on the inside left forearm of Swiss tennis champion Stan Wawrinka, for example, and they appear as part of the title of a recent book by the American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön.Perhaps more pertinently, Worstward’s words twice grace the pages of Judith Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure, “a book about failing well, failing often, and learning, in the words of Samuel Beckett, how to fail better,”a book that engages a number of queer artists with its admirably “low theory” but that recurs to the peppily animated character SpongeBob SquarePants more frequently than to any of Beckett’s barely animated “gallery of moribunds,”and a book that, perhaps intentionally, fails even to cite Beckett properly, assigning the “fail better” line to Murphy rather than to Worstward Ho.
This collection explains developments within Beckett studies and why he has emerged as one of the most iconic writers of the twentieth century. It also proposes a new interpretive framework that explores both the expanded canon, which has doubled the volume of his works in the last ten years, and the new methods used to approach it. This book covers all the most recent approaches to the Beckett study, such as archival research, queer theory, mathematical readings of literature, neuro-scientific approaches, translation studies, and disability studies. These new approaches are shown to be relevant and necessary to provide a renewed understanding of the lasting value of Beckett's works.
This collection of essays explores the main concepts and methods of reading launched by French philosopher Jacques Derrida who died in 2004. Derrida exerted a huge influence on literary critics in the 1980s, but later there was a backlash against his theories. Today, one witnesses a general return to his way of reading literature, the rationale of which is detailed and explained in the essays. The authors, both well-known and younger specialists, give many precise examples of how Derrida, who always remained at the cusp between literature and philosophy, posed fundamental questions and thus changed the field of literary criticism, especially with regard to poetry. The contributors also highlight the way Derrida made spectacular interventions in feminism, psychoanalytic studies, animal studies, digital humanities and post-colonial studies.