David Rudrum on Cavell on Beckett

A new issue of Textual Practice (August 2009) includes an article by David Rudrum (University of Huddersfield) titled “From the Sublime to the Ordinary: Stanley Cavell’s Beckett.” To access the full text, please click here. Here is how the article begins:

‘Beckett shrugs his shoulders at the possibility of philosophy today’. So claims Theodor Adorno in his rather abortive ‘Versuch, das Endspiel zu verstehen‘. And yet, perhaps because of this very act of shoulder shrugging, the works of Samuel Beckett seem to have fired the imaginations of a great many philosophers. Discussions of Beckett feature prominently in the writings of such thinkers as Gilles Deleuze, Maurice Blanchot, Alain Badiou, and, of course, Theodor Adorno, and current work in Beckett studies has been dominated by contemplating, clarifying, and extrapolating these philosophical readings. A recent book by Richard Lane, entitled Beckett and Philosophy, is divided into a section mapping out Beckett’s significance for an array of French philosophers, and another section mapping out the same territory in German philosophy. Tellingly, there is no third section on Beckett’s significance for Anglo-American philosophers, despite the fact that his works have drawn comment from leading thinkers like Martha Nussbaum and Stanley Cavell. Indeed, since the publication of Must We Mean What We Say? 40 years ago, Cavell’s essay on Endgame has attracted the attention of only the smallest handful of commentators – a fraction of those who have written on Adorno’s essay on the same subject. My aim in this paper will be to take some steps towards redressing this imbalance, by teasing out some of the implications of Cavell’s position.

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