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Beckett Beyond the Normal$
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Seán Kennedy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474460460

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474460460.001.0001

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Narrating Disruption: Realist Fiction and The Politics of Form in Watt

Narrating Disruption: Realist Fiction and The Politics of Form in Watt

(p.33) Chapter 2 Narrating Disruption: Realist Fiction and The Politics of Form in Watt
Beckett Beyond the Normal

William Davies

Edinburgh University Press

Samuel Beckett’s Watt is, in some obvious sense, a war book. However, it is often read in eccentric relation to its historical context. Citing both Ireland’s neutrality policies and Beckett’s encounters with Nazism, James McNaughton (2018) reads the novel as a sustained interrogation of modern mechanisms of propaganda and state control. If the Irish setting displaces any immediate wartime connections, the absurd reasoning Watt deploys offers a frightening allegory for the barbaric logics of fascism. This essay both extends and complicates this reading by looking back to the critiques of realist fiction that Beckett developed over a decade earlier in his lectures on the history of the novel at Trinity College, Dublin, and in his own first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women. In doing so, it explores the extent to which Watt represents a culmination of formal experimentation that was put in train at the beginning of Beckett’s career, a process which gained dramatic political urgency in a world at war.

Keywords:   Beckett, Watt, World War Two, Realism, The Novel, Narrative

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