Negative theology and Samuel Beckett's strategies of reduction : visuality and iconicity in Beckett's later works for the stage




Wynands, Sandra.

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Over the course of his life Beckett's work moves through a process of reduction toward increasing simplicity and concentration of means. 1 trace this reduction in Beckett's later works for the stage and compare it with the dialectics of negative theology, both Buddhist and Orthodox Christian, paying particular attention to structures of visuality and iconicity (both visual and not) in Beckett's work. The visual enjoyed a status of peculiar ontological primacy for Beckett. In it he saw exemplified both the dualisms he worked to overcome throughout his career and the saving grace that will overcome them: a "breathless immediacy" (Beckett's words) that will skip the mediation of language and the linearity of discourse and present exquisitely balanced, essentially still, nondual images. Beckett's metaphorical, that is, vertically structured stage images are subtended by metonymic texts that run through a strategic process of self-emptying in a kind of kenosis of discourse. The aporetic figures thus produced form similarly iconic structures on the textual level as can be found on the visual level. In Beckett's horizontal world a displaced sacramentalism and a phenomenologically motivated process of enquiry into the nature of things combine to create an empty space, a gray area through which the divine can enter if the audience is inclined to make such an act of faith. Beckett creates an art of Erfahrung that leads to a confrontation with an Other beyond the limits of a reductive concept of instrumental reason.