This article demonstrates that Beckett’s play Not I derives from a hitherto unrecognized source: Rimbaud’s poem of synesthesia, “Voyelles.” Revealing the significant intertextual links between Beckett’s play and Rimbaud’s poem, the article demonstrates that the striking central image of Not I—the disembodied mouth spewing out an almost incomprehensible torrent of words—directly recalls Rimbaud’s image for the vowel I in “Voyelles.” Beckett uses Rimbaud, the article argues, in a way that is distortive and translational: the image for I is carried across languages and across sensory planes: from French to English, from words on the page to theatrical performance; from verbal to visual and sensory experience. The correspondences between Not I and “Voyelles” are not only directly intertextual, however, but conceptual. Beckett draws particularly on two Rimbaudian concepts: the otherness of the poetic I, and the notion of a “dérèglement de tous les sens.” Adapting and translating Rimbaud’s conception of synesthesia in “Voyelles,” Beckett develops a theatrical mode that explores and manipulates various forms of cross-sensory experience, including synesthesia, to produce a “theater of the nerves.”

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