Introduction Negative Modernism: Beckett’s Poetics of Pejorism and Literary Enactment

  • Dirk Van Hulle
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


The relationship between Beckett and modernism remains a much-contested issue in Beckett studies and beyond. Beckett’s place in the modernist canon has been questioned both on the grounds of periodization and style, with the term ‘late modernist’ increasingly gaining ground in the more recent scholarship. Without disputing Weller’s definition, this essay suggests a different approach by foregrounding Beckett’s trademark ‘fidelity to failure’ and his radical denial of the Leibnizian concept of theodicy. To explore the philosophical prehistory of what could be termed Beckett’s negative modernism, it first discusses the ‘epiphanic’ modernism of his more canonical predecessors and then traces the contours of Beckett’s own poetics of ‘pejorism’ (a term he coined in the margins of his copy of Olga Plümacher’s Der Pessimismus and in his ‘Whoroscope’ Notebook) to examine how his negative modernism is enacted in his works.



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) / ERC grant agreement no. 313609.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk Van Hulle
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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