Anthony Cordingley, Beckett’s pedagogy of affect

18 October, 2017
3.00 - 5.00 p.m.

A number of recent, influential readings of Beckett’s texts, informed by archival and intertextual discoveries, have found evidence of what they present as Beckett’s philosophically informed aesthetics of the arational, as his affirmation of ignorance and self-abasement. Such readings do not, however, infer from Beckett’s supposed turning away from reason the valorizing of emotion, as one might expect given the traditional (ancient) opposition between the two. Rather, Beckett’s narrators and characters emerge as ascetic plodders who journey into the wilderness or endure bodily mortification to rid themselves of not only their knowledge but also their emotions. In this talk, I will present a counter narrative to this tradition, finding archival evidence that indicates the need to rethink our sense of Beckett’s engagement with French politics in the late 1950s and early 1960s. France’s colonial experience and in particular the use of torture by the French during the Algerian War emerges as a preoccupation of Beckett’s, which has gone by and large unacknowledged, overshadowed by his Resistance work and the Holocaust, not to mention Sartre’s accusation that Becket was an apolitical writer. Avoiding the cliché of reading Beckett’s texts through Artaud’s Théâtre de la Cruauté (Theatre of Cruelty), I will demonstrate how a number of key prose works and texts for radio and the theatre from this period thematise torture and zero in on the effects of pain in historically situated bodies. I will test the ability for recent trauma theory to comprehend Beckett’s relationship to torture, and that of his characters, before returning to the question of reason, education and the cogito when I map out what I perceive to be Beckett’s pedagogy of affect.


Anthony Cordingley is an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of English, on secondment from the Université Paris 8 where he is a Lecturer in English and Translation. He has published widely on modern literature, especially Samuel Beckett, and translation. Recently, he edited Collaborative Translation: from the Renaissance to the Digital Age (Bloomsbury 2016) and Self-translation: brokering originality in hybrid culture (Bloomsbury 2013), as well as the 2015 issue of Linguistica Antverpiensia, “Towards a Genetics of Translation”.


Location: Woolley Building A20, Room S226

Contact:Robert Crompton
Phone:+61 2 9351 1012

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