A Weakening Syntax: How It Is with Samuel Beckett’s Prose Poetry

  • Scott Annett


This essay explores Samuel Beckett’s poetic experimentation in the short prose text How It Is (Comment C’est, 1961), completed in English in 1964. In a series of interviews with Lawrence Harvey dating from around this time (1961–1962), Beckett referred to his hope of finding ‘an adequate form’, which he then described as a ‘syntax of weakness’. In this essay, an argument is made to suggest that the weakened syntax of How It Is relates to Beckett’s readings of Dante’s Commedia. Moreover, particular attention is paid to Beckett’s linguistic playfulness, tonal inflections and syntactical ambiguities, as the text repeatedly offers its reader-listener a range of interpretive possibilities. In turn, the significance of these qualities in How It Is emphasise Beckett’s skill as a practitioner of the prose-poem.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Annett
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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