This article elucidates the dialectic between Pythagorean-Platonic and Democritean ideas latent in Beckett's final work of long prose, Comment c'est/How It Is (1961/1964), and measures the importance of Beckett's perception of philosophy gained through his study of Wilhelm Windelband's primer, A History of Philosophy. Unearthing Beckett's reaction to the nineteenth-century Kantian's grand narrative of the progress of reason, this article maps the poetics of appropriation that marks Beckett's quintessentially late modernist aesthetics. In no way can Beckett's poetics edify the Tradition (à la Pound or Eliot), but neither can it simply deny, subvert, or pastiche it. To ask whether or not Beckett escapes into nihilism, to wonder if he finds a philosophically satisfactory solution to his rejection of a faith in reason, or to look for his synthesis of the Ancient dialectic he entertains is in each case to miss the point. Beckett's use of allusive discourse is demonstrated to be a vector through which he explores the mechanisms of listening, memory, and creativity. This article therefore offers the precise example of Beckett's use of Ancient philosophy to illustrate how his aesthetics defines a limit point of modernism.
Research Article|December 01 2013
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Anthony Cordingley; Beckett's Philosophical Imagination: Democritus versus Pythagoras and Plato in Comment C'est/How It Is. Comparative Literature 1 December 2013; 65 (4): 383–407. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2376606
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