Writing Sous Rature: The Metaphysics of Nothingness in Samuel Beckett's Later Prose Texts
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The object of this thesis is to argue that a selection of Samuel Beckett's later prose texts represent an examination of the plight of being, through writing, in Jacques Derrida's terms, sous rature. By writing sous rature - representing, and then putting specific images of representation "under erasure" - Beckett establishes his own "technique" by which to give form to the "timeless" self and world, not as an "absolute" negation or no thing, but as a positive nothingness (the presence of an absence, as Derrida has it). While writing sous rature does echo Jacques Derrida's use of the phrase, and Heidegger's earlier inquiry into the metaphysics of being in Being and Time, the theoretical aspect of this study, while certainly present, is slight. Instead, sous rature is employed as the definition of Beckett's own process of writing in these later texts which allows him to develop a new "syntax of weakness" and "literature of the unword." By using language to represent the experience of being, and then putting that language sous rature, Beckett draws attention to the inadequacies of language as a means of representing the "timeless" self, and for explaining the experience of being in the world. By extension, this inability "to express" the "essential" "timeless" self through language becomes the means by which to express the experience of nothingness as the metaphysical plight of being. Although manufactured through a number of techniques, nothingness, in each instance, is all that which language fails to signify - the residua produced by the failure of language that encapsulates within its virtual form the unknown aspects of the "timeless" that remains outside the traditional "zone" of representation.