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Samuel Beckett and the Writers of Port-Royal

Abstract : This thesis examines Samuel Beckett’s understanding of seventeenth century French classicism. Thepreliminary analysis of genetic material, that allows the identification of Beckett’s primary andsecondary sources on Pascal and Racine, leads to a discussion of literary and aesthetic connectionsbetween the works of Beckett and the writers of Port-Royal. The philosophical backdrop of thatinfluence derives from the unique fusion of logic, eloquence, and passion manifested in the works of Racine, together with the conception of language in the Pensées and Arnauld and Nicole’s1662 Logique ou l’art de Penser. Literary theories on style and ‘modern literature’ that are contemporary to Beckett’s Trinity College lectures and early critical writings are examined here in the aim to define the different aspects of that intellectual filiation. A close reading of Beckett’s 1931 monograph on Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu follows the initial historiographical study, so as to show that the presence of French literary Augustinianism, manifested in the works of Sainte-Beuve, particularly his only novel Volupté, also underlies some of Beckett’s later prose. This includes the trilogy of French novels, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, and pieces belonging to the later period, particularly Le Dépeupleur/The Lost Ones, and Sans/Lessness. Beckett’s ‘syntax of weakness’, based on reduction and impoverishment, is inspired by the Augustinian pessimism towards language at work in the Logique. As such, the anthropological vision of Port-Royal anticipated Beckett’s definition of being as chaos, so much so that Pascal’s style crucially defined his use of the French language itself.
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Melanie Foehn. Samuel Beckett and the Writers of Port-Royal. Literature. Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle - Paris III; University of Kent at Canterbury, 2012. English. ⟨NNT : 2012PA030077⟩. ⟨tel-00915119⟩



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