How Beckett Has Modified Modernism: From Beckett to Blanchot and Bataille

  • Jean-Michel Rabaté
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


Asking ‘How Beckett has modified modernism’ presupposes a definition of modernism and agency facing a critical consensus. Unlike the ‘historical’ avant-gardes, modernism as a category was applied retroactively to a preceding corpus. One often hears that modernism culminated in 1922, which situates Beckett as a belated ‘late modernist’. I would suggest a longer periodicity for modernism and see it continue after 1950. It would be represented by writers like Beckett and Coetzee and by theoreticians like Adorno, Greenberg, Bataille, Derrida, or Deleuze. Such a ‘late-late’ modernism will retroactively impact our current definitions of ‘high modernism’. Beckett contributed to this ongoing re-evaluation by transforming a few Proustian and Joycean premises. This essay focuses on Joyce’s later work and analyses how Beckett took over from Joyce a concept of the ‘posthuman’ that he deployed in The Unnamable. It requires to be interpreted with the help of the theories of the philosophers quoted above.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Michel Rabaté
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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