Silence Nowhen

Late Modernism, Minimalism, and Silence in the Work of Samuel Beckett

by Duncan McColl Chesney (Author)
©2013 Monographs 248 Pages


The dramatic and prose works of Samuel Beckett have long been understood as central to twentieth-century literature and particularly to questions about aesthetics, ethics, and the modernism-postmodernism distinction. Duncan McColl Chesney addresses many of the main issues in Beckett criticism by focusing on a key aspect of Beckett’s work throughout his long career: silence. Chesney links Beckett’s language and silence back to his predecessors, especially Joyce and Proust – laterally to contemporary movements of minimalism in the sister arts and theoretically in in-depth discussions of Blanchot and Adorno. By doing so, Chesney addresses how Beckett’s works remain true, to the end, to a minimalist impulse that is essentially modernist or late modernist without giving over to the rising dominant of postmodernism. Chesney delineates a sigetics – a discourse of silence whose main strategies in Beckett are reticence and ellipsis – and through studies of Godot, Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape, Happy Days, the Trilogy, Company, and other works, teases out of Beckett’s minimal aesthetics a Beckettian minimal ethics. In brief glimmers in his texts Beckett provides proleptic hints at reconciliation and the possibility of ethical life that are neither theological nor mystical, but that minimally hold to an alternate rationality from that of the reified world of exchange and catastrophe.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (November)
aesthetics ethics criticism
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 248 pp.

Biographical notes

Duncan McColl Chesney (Author)

Duncan McColl Chesney is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the National Taiwan University in Taipei. He holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Yale University and has published on various literary, cinematic, and film theoretical topics including pieces on Proust, Faulkner, Joyce, Coetzee, and Visconti. He was a recipient of a Wu Da-You Award for young scholars from the National Science Council of Taiwan in 2012 and continues to pursue research and teaching interests in comparative European modernism, literary theory, film studies, and modern British, Commonwealth, and Irish literatures.


Title: Silence Nowhen