Beckett, Lacan and the Gaze

Llewellyn Brown

ibidem Press

Beckett, Lacan and the Gaze

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Pub Date: April 2019

ISBN: 9783838212395

610 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $65.00

Pub Date: April 2019

ISBN: 9783838272399

610 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $39.99

Beckett, Lacan and the Gaze

Llewellyn Brown

ibidem Press

Forming a pair with the voice, the gaze is a central structuring element of Samuel Beckett’s creation. And yet it takes the form of a strangely impersonal visual dimension testifying to the absence of an original exchange of gazes capable of founding personal identity and opening up the world to desire. The collapse of conventional reality and the highlighting of seeing devices—eyes, mirrors, windows—point to the absence of a unified representation. While masks and closed spaces show the visible to be opaque and devoid of any beyond, light and darkness, spectres—manifestations without origin—reveal a realm beyond the confines of identity, where nothing provides a mediation with the seen, or sets it within perspective. Finally, Beckett’s use of the audio-visual media deepens his exploration of the irreducibly real part of existence that escapes seeing.

This study systematically examines these essential aspects of the visual in Beckett’s creation. The theoretical elaborations of Jacques Lacan—in relation with corresponding developments in the history and philosophy of the visual arts—offer an indispensible framework to understand the imaginary not as representation, but as rooted in the fundamental opacity of existence.
Brown reminds us of how the art dealer Duveen covered with thick varnish the paintings displayed in his shop, because his clients liked to see their image reflected in the works. Beckett does exactly the contrary: he removes the varnish from all images of the human condition, yet makes us see ourselves reflected in his dark mirror. Brown has repeated the feat of writing with verve and intelligence about this process whereby Beckett rinses and cleanses our vision, showing cogently that Beckett’s nihilistic turpentine is the best remedy facing our moribund society of the spectacle. Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Informed by a judicious and lucid engagement with the work of Jacques Lacan, Brown offers a compelling analysis of Beckett’s relentless investigation of the act of seeing—and, above all, of not seeing. Shane Weller, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Kent
Llewellyn Brown’s Beckett, Lacan and the Gaze is a comprehensive, not to say encyclopedic treatment of a motif that is central to both writers’ work. This is psychoanalytic criticism of the highest order. Brown’s admirably erudite work also performs the invaluable service of bringing into conversation French and English language critics of Beckett’s work that are all too often ignorant of one another’s traditions. David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Riverside

About the Author

Llewellyn Brown teaches French literature at the Lycée international de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. His latest books are Savoir de l’amour (2012), Beckett, Lacan and the Voice (2016), and Marguerite Duras, écrire et détruire (2018). He directs the ‘Samuel Beckett’ series for publisher Lettres modernes-Minard (Paris).