Talking Sense: Sensory Communication in Samuel Beckett's The Unnamable, Film and Quadrat I II
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis discusses Samuel Beckett's non-verbal language, as observed in his novel, The Unnamable, his film, Film, and his pieces for television, Quadrat I + II. Beckett's sensory focus is nascent in The Unnamable, as Beckett explores the disintegration of verbal language in order to prepare ground for imagery. Imagery, here, is considered to arise from an art that is able to communicate directly with the sensory capacities of its audience. This is in contrast to artworks that primarily utilise verbal language expression, and thus communicate sensory information indirectly. Film succeeds The Unnamable by eleven years and is, effectively, a silent work. Rather than existing as an image in its own right, however, Film is primarily involved in a discussion of the nature of imagery, as the subject matter of Film is a debate with Berkeley’s statement “Esse est percipi”, that is, “to be is to be perceived”. In this film, the reader is encouraged to think about sensory engagement, rather than actively being engaged in a sensory way. Quadrat I + II were first broadcast in 1982 and are both speechless, though sound remains. These two works represent the culmination of Beckett's visual explorations as they engage with the senses directly. This thesis posits that the unique openness of Beckett’s texts demands a particular creativity of its readers, in that the texts may be considered incomplete without reader/viewer contribution to meaning. Beckett’s sensory focus means that readers’ creative understanding of texts is often imagistic in its own right. In addition, the openness of Beckett’s texts invites readers to share the experience of his protagonists. As protagonists are also presented as being involved in acts of creation, and are concerned with the nature of perception, this means that the experience of the reader is, effectively, one of making images. Thus, Beckett works to indirectly, as well as directly, to give the reader a sensory experience. This thesis primarily utilises the theories of Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and the theory of Phenomenology to defend this position.