This article stages a process of self-conscious critical assessment and reassessment around the proposition that Samuel Beckett’s 1938 Murphy is a novel intimately concerned with peace. Building on the pacifistic orientation of the posthumanist intellectual projects of Michel Serres and Bruno Latour, it uses Murphy as a means of inquiring into what a literary textual practice founded on a posthumanistic ethics of peace might look like. It locates in Murphy forms of agency and animism that dismantle the human-nonhuman divide and suggest affinities between modernist experimentalism and lines of thought in Latour’s work that lead to “compositionism.” It also finds in posthumanism a general apologetics around the dismantling of “critique” and anthropocentrism, opening up textual practice to the admission of vulnerability, naïveté, error, and playfulness, which allows various readings of Murphy’s peaceability to be assembled and assimilated together beyond a hermeneutic of suspicion.
Murphy and Peace
Jeff Wallace is professor of English at Cardiff Metropolitan University and vice-chair of the British Association of Modernist Studies. He is the author of Beginning Modernism and D. H. Lawrence, Science and the Posthuman and an editor of, among other volumes, Gothic Modernisms. His research interests lie in modern and contemporary writing, science and literature, and the dialogue between humanism and posthumanism, and his ongoing work concerns abstraction as a critical and theoretical concept.