This article reads Samuel Beckett’s Texts for Nothing through a conceptual register it derives from the work of Maurice Blanchot and Alain Badiou: the terror of literature. Through its close reading of Texts for Nothing, it demonstrates that terror is what emerges in consciousness and in language when permanent suffering—the historical and metaphysical injustices of twentieth-century modernity—is made to overdetermine what happens to living, thinking, and speaking in the space of literature and narrative. For Beckett’s protagonist, words, ideas, and images are instruments of torture, and in its reliance solely on words, ideas, and images to escape its affliction, it becomes the agent of its own victimization. This is a situation of terror par excellence.
The Terror of Literature in Beckett’s Texts for Nothing
Christopher Langlois received his PhD in theory and criticism from the University of Western Ontario in 2014. His research is situated at the intersections of twentieth-century British and Irish literature, modernism, twentieth-century continental philosophy, and critical theory. His previous work has appeared in Mosaic, the Faulkner Journal, Colloquy, and most recently in the collection Understanding Deleuze, Understanding Modernism, edited by Paul Ardoin, S. E. Gontarski, and Laci Mattison. He is also a contributor to the forthcoming Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism with entries on Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, and the “nouveau roman.”
Christopher Langlois; The Terror of Literature in Beckett’s Texts for Nothing. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2015; 61 (1): 92–117. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-2885194
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