This chapter looks at Beckett’s Nacht und Träume, revealing a complex referential structure by demonstrating how each minute gesture, taking its meaning by association with other hand gestures in Beckett, strives to achieve the symbolic properties of a micro-language. The chapter then reads the aesthetics and politics of Catastrophe as a critique of the modernist tendency to impose legibility on the body, and of naturalism’s mimesis of text and performance, its desire to induce identification in the mind of an audience. The chapter also reads the play as a self-critique of Beckett’s own tendency as a writer-director to formalise gestures within a self-enclosed and immanent structure. By foregrounding the partial opacity and double aspect of the stage directions, their sketch of gestures invisible to the eye, Beckett imputes an openness and indeterminacy to the text, leaving the central figure with choices to make, allowing him to be the author of himself in the play’s climactic moment.
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