From Language Revolution to Literature of the Unword: Beckett as Late Modernist

  • Shane Weller
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


At the heart of the high modernist aesthetic lies a commitment to radical linguistic renewal—or what has come to be known as a ‘revolution of the word’. Beckett’s early work adheres in many respects to this high modernist aesthetic, which constitutes a radical response to late nineteenth-century language scepticism. However, from the late 1930s onwards, Beckett commits himself increasingly to what he describes as a ‘literature of the unword’, in which language is turned back against itself through forms of linguistic negativism. This chapter considers the specificities of Beckett’s linguistic negativism in relation to that of a number of other twentieth-century European writers, including Franz Kafka, Maurice Blanchot, and Paul Celan, to argue that their ‘unwording’ practices are characteristic of a ‘late’ modernism.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shane Weller
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

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