Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Samuel Beckett's early to middle novels thematize what Gadamer calls the hermeneutic nature of being. The novels figure the process of being as articulating the non-coincidental self in a discursive space itself denying the very grounds of meaning. This dissertation explores the philosophical implications of an aporetic hermeneutics in relation to the narrating subject, whose readings of his world are always articulated en abime, and to the actual reader, who is obligated to measure the economy of her own reading against the specular hermeneutic of the narrating subject. The question of interpretation in the novels is attenuated by the reader's awareness that her hermeneutic desire is always figured as a simulacrum of an originary reading itself logically "impossible" because never fully grounded.;Each chapter discusses one novel in terms of its thematization of concepts specific to a philosophical hermeneutics. Chapter One discusses Watt in relation to a Gadamerian reading of Aristotle's conception of phronesis, and suggests a link between ethics and interpretation. Chapter Two analyses the relation between narrative and narrator in Mercier and Camier and suggests an anxious relation between narrative and hermeneutics. Chapter Three analyzes Gadamer's articulation of the "dialogical" function in relation to Molloy to suggest that the paradox of the Beckettian narrator is the paradox of "aporetic dialogue". Chapter Four explores the hermeneutical function of "play" in Malone Dies as a specific function of narrative to suggest that Malone's desire for death is playfully--though impossibly--rehearsed in his acts of narrative. Chapter Five discusses The Unnamable as a self-interpreting (or "metahermeneutic") text that reads itself through the definitional and ethical thresholds of beginning and ending while simultaneously denying the possibility of any ethical grounds. Chapter Six explores the relation between memory, desire, death and the constitution of the narrating subject in How It Is and theorizes the implications of being in the space of repetition. I conclude the thesis with an examination of the dialogical function of hermeneutics in Endgame and the second trilogy, Company, ill seen ill said, and Worstward Ho.



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