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The Ethics of Truths and Bare Life: Badiou and Beckett

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2011, 24(2), pp.57-78
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Ilhyung Park 1

1홍익대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This thesis analyzes the framework of Alain Badiou’s criticism on Samuel Beckett and unravels its ethico-political implications. The objective is to go beyond summary and introduction of Badiou’s criticism and to point out its limitations. Furthermore, an attempt is made to expand the discussion of Badiou’s criticism, often heavily concentrated on Beckett’s novels, to theatre. For this purpose, analysis of Catastrophe, a short piece that contains the most direct political homage among Beckett’s entire oeuvre, shall be undertaken. Badiou, known as the last patron of modernity in direct confrontation with postmodernism and a radical leftist, published four critical essays on Beckett in the 90’s. Interest in Badiou stems from the fact that his analysis provides a new potential in ethico-political interpretation of Beckett which was in a deadlock for quite a long time. Badiou reads the project of ethical thinking toward the image of subject and the other as opposed to absurdity and namelessness, and difference and repetition that existentialism or deconstruction focused on. Badiou opposes the critical tradition that links Beckett’s work with the annulment of the subject or a solipsistic world view, and thereby stipulates Beckett as a nonpolitical and apolitical writer. However, his argument reveals its limitation when Beckett’s work such as Catastrophe is read and analyzed more carefully. Because this particular piece shows how human life is manipulated by aesthetic representation and how the public’s ethical presumption and social consciousness are formulated by this process. Beckett appears to reveal the theatricality of politics that sustains and promulgates a political possibility rather than illustrate subjectivation based on a radically new event. What this piece discloses is not the possibility of subjectivation but the bare life that is excluded and silenced by political subjectivation.

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