Beckett’s Metarrhetoric



There is, to be sure, sure enough about those things that one can ever be sure of, that there is no such thing as an anti-novel. This literary alogism so popular with many ‘cntitics’ is erroneous. That is to say, amurcous. Antilogous. It is a critical shibboleth, not unlike the term ‘postmodernism,’ that indicates to the reader that the writer knows the proper shibboleth even though the shibboleth is quite vacuous. John Fletcher, in writing about Samuel Beckett’s novels, defines the ‘anti-novel’ as a text that refuses to take either the world or itself seriously and generally, though not always, sets out to burlesque and debunk some contemporary or near-contemporary that does. Without mentioning whether or not Samuel Beckett takes the world or his texts seriously, Mr. Fletcher’s definition, however doesn’t define what such an anti-text is. What it looks like. In other words, is the anti-novel a novel even though it is not a novel or is it something else? If the former, the point is moot. If the latter, just what is it? Under his definition Eugene Onegin would have to be an anti-novel as would Tristram Shandy. But how would one write an anti-novel if Tristram Shandy were the model to debunk? Perhaps, one ‘debunks’ Tristram Shandy by writing a Realistic novel.


Twelfth Century Prepositional Phrase Musical Note Rhetorical Device Advertising Industry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Philippe Sollers, Writing and the Experience of Limits, trans, by Phillip Barnar with David Hayman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), p. 187.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    William H. Gass, Fiction and the Figures of Life (Boston, Mass.: Nonpareil Books, 1980), p. 14.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Supti Sen, Samuel Beckett His Mind and Art (Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1970), p. 91.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ruby Cohn (ed.), Samuel Beckett (New York: McGraw-Hill), p. 24.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Steven Rosen, Samuel Beckett and the Pessimistic Tradition (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press), p. 63.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Ruby Cohn, ‘Watt in the Light of the Castle,’ Comparative Literature, Vol. XIII, No. 2, Spring 1961, p. 162.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Gerd Brand, The Central Texts of Ludwig Wittgenstein (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979) p. 142.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Allen Thiher, Words in Reflection (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), p. 102.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Fred Hoffman, Samuel Beckett the Language of Self (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962), p. 119.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Donald Phillip Verene and Giorgio Tagliacozzo (eds), Giambattista Vico’s Science of Humanity (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), p. 78.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, trans. Williard Trask (New York: Pantheon, 1954), p. 34.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Josiah Thompson, Lonely Labyrinth: Kierkegaard’s Pseudonymous Works (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967), p. 117.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Michael Robinson, The Long Sonata of the Dead (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1969), p. 105.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    John Fletcher, The Novels of Samuel Beckett (London: Chatto & Windus, 1964), p. 76.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press, 1978), p. 108.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    Bruce Kawin, Telling It Again and Again (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972), p. 49.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    Daniel Berkeley Updike, Printing Types, Vols. I and II (New York: Dover, 1980).Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1957), p. 37.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising (New York: Vintage Books, 1985), p. 96.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Daniel Boorstin, Democracy and Its Discontents (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), p. 30.Google Scholar
  21. 27.
    John DiPierro, Structures in Beckett’s Watt (York, SC: French Literature Publications, 1981), p. 134.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    Phillip Stevick, The Theory of the Novel (New York: The Free Press, 1967), p. 142.Google Scholar
  23. 29.
    E. Preston Dargan, Balzac’s Realism (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1932), p. 139.Google Scholar
  24. 30.
    S.E. Gontarski (ed.), On Beckett: Essays and Criticism (New York: Grove Press, 1986), p. 5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© M. R. Axelrod 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chapman UniversityOrangeUSA

Personalised recommendations