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The Unnamable: Denegative Dialogue

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This paper presents a reading of Beckett's The Unnamable as neither modernist nor postmodernist text per se, but rather as poised within the highly productive gap between these categories, insofar as they are shorthand, respectively, for the contest between the ontological and epistemological imperatives. Through the close analysis of the unravelling of its discourse, I read the radically negative and often self-contradictory language of this novel not in terms of dialectic but dialogue. To this extent the logic and function of negation in Beckett's text is revalued and shown to be neither determinate—and therefore somehow recuperative—nor nihilistic, but determinedly negative. The dialogue in the text, I argue, is one between self and Other only insofar as both positions are reduced, by the end of the narrative, to functions of the endlessly speaking voice.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2005


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