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Samuel Beckett's How It IsPhilosophy in Translation$
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Anthony Cordingley

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440608

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440608.001.0001

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The Physical Cosmos: Aristotelian Dialectics

The Physical Cosmos: Aristotelian Dialectics

Chapter:
(p.76) 3 The Physical Cosmos: Aristotelian Dialectics
Source:
Samuel Beckett's How It Is
Author(s):

Anthony Cordingley

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440608.003.0004

This chapter explores the impact of the dialectics of the Ancient world after Plato upon Beckett’s French novels and the peculiar set of relations between characters and their physical environment in How It Is. It accounts for the presence of Aristotelian ideas of cosmic order, syllogism, space and time. Beckett’s study of formal logic as a student at Trinity College, Dublin and his private study of philosophy in 1932 is examined in this light; particularly his “Philosophy Notes,” along with further sources for his knowledge. The Aristotelian world view of his “I” is shown to be confronted with a set of relations resembling those of the Ancient Greek Stoics. The materiality of spatio-temporal relations in How It Is and the metaphysical coordinates between the “I”, its cosmos and any transcendent other are interrogated. The dialectic between Aristotelian and Stoic physics and metaphysics in How It Is emerges as a conceptual framework for exploring many of the novel’s contradictions, as well as the many confusions and digressions of its narrator/narrated. Beckett’s creative transformation of this ancient dialectic is shown, furthermore, to lead him to formal innovations, such as the novel’s continuous present tense and its complex narrative structure.

Keywords:   Samuel Beckett, Ancient Philosophy, Metaphysics, Physics, Aristotle, Ancient Stoics, Translation, Bilingualism, archive, genetic criticism

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