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The Journal of Narrative Technique (The Journal of Narrative Theory)


Beckett, narrative authority, textual authority, authority, narrative


In traditional Beckett criticism, the most conventional interpretation of the narrator's activity in The Unnamable posits that the narrative is attempting to establish "his" own self-identity, but "[h]is search for self-knowledge has failed because it has produced only fiction" (Solomon 83). Another variety of this interpretation poses the Unnamable's dilemma in Existential language: "Existence affirms merely that something is; essence denotes what it is ... By the time we reach The Unnamable, the collapse of essence is virtually complete; the voice is a mere existence crying out that it exists" (Levy 104). As Dennis A. Foster argues in his Lacanian reading of The Unnamable, which includes an evaluation of the critical exegesis surrounding the text, the traditional critic produces and image of narrative authority and then, identifying with that textual authority, (the critic) transfers and assumes the text's struggles as her own interpretative difficulties. In other words, the critic creates in her reading a "coherent subjectivity" that allows her to "find in Beckett's works that the difficulty, even impossibility of telling a story makes his refusal to lapse into a despairing silence only further evidence of his heroic humanity, makes Beckett a paragon of a modernist man" (Foster 96).