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Beckett and Language Pathology Author(s): Benjamin Keatinge Source: Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 31, No.

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Beckett and Language Pathology

Benjamin Keatinge

South EasternEuropeanUniversity, Macedonia

This article begins with an account of Beckett's translations of Surrealist textsfor the extractsfrom Breton and September 1932 issue ofDiis Quarter, which contained Eluard's Simulations. The essay argues that Beckett was influenced by these sketches inpsychic confusion and suggests that traces of this encounter can be found in Lucky's seen use a to in is Beckett for Godot. speech Waiting pathological language structures in
deliberate way and Lucky's schizophrenic language seems to correspond to the psychiatric

Watt are also examined concept of patterns in formal thought disorder. Irrational speech A discussion 0/Worstward and viewed as another deliberate sabotage of logical speech. Ho

using Deleuzean
linguistic play

conceptions of language pathology suggests that Beckett is swayed,

the language manner, in an the more unconscious expansive way. Beck of language

in the later prose,

of pathological by rhythms is seen to echo, in an austere





/ Surrealism / Joyce / language pathology

/ schizophrenia












spell as a lecteur at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris between 1928 and 1929. Here he met his lifelong friend Thomas MacGreevy who introduced
him to Joyce whose work was to prove a dominant influence during Beckett's early

creative life. The intellectual climate in Paris at this time was very much influenced was acquainted with the ideas of writers like Andre by Surrealism, and Beckett
Breton and Paul Eluard through the numerous avant-garde magazines then in

circulation. These
Beckett's eloquent

included transition, which

response to Joyce's

serialized Joyces Work inProgress, and

novel, in an essay published


in 1929, bears testimony

pitfalls Here English. of language. form Beckett

to the young Beckett's

writes, in a well-known

on the possibilities thoughts



is content,


is form. You

It is not written

at all. It is not

in that this stuff is not written complain ? or rather it is not to be to be read only writing is not about something, it is that

read. It is to be looked something itself. (Disjecta

at and listened 27; emphasis

to. His




suggests that the form of Joyce's novel and its content or, to
its signifiers and signified, seem to coalesce so that sounds



Beckett andLanguage Pathology 87 and meaning become one. The lexical qualities of the words cannot be disjoined from their sense and Joyce, Beckett suggests, has broken down the traditional form/ content dichotomy. This distinction, and its subversion by Joyce, is something to which I shall return in relation to Beckett's own work. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Beckett was digesting some of the Sur
realists' experiments with language. In particular, he translated a selection of col

laborative writings by Breton and Eluard for a small English language publication called This Quarter, which produced a Surrealist special issue in September 1932,
guest edited by Breton, tends to with a section on Surrealism and madness. over the conscious Surrealism, mind as and is well-known, emphasize the unconscious

spontaneous, automatic writing inwhich the supposed wellsprings of are reference to the world of reality. Beckett takes up creativity tapped without this theme in his first published novel, Murphy, in which he disparages what he calls "the rudimentary blessings of the layman's reality" {Murphy 101) and uses the character of Mr. Endon, a hospitalized schizophrenic, to discredit the world of reality. And it is this discrediting of reality which Beckett adapted for his own purposes from the Surrealists. He also adopted the use of insanity from the Surrealists as away of bolstering this campaign against the real. The passages Beckett translated included three of Breton and Eluard's famous Simulations, which were published in their book The Immaculate Conception, inwhich they sought to imitate and enter into the irrational thought processes and the deranged thinking of the insane. Their creative method for these Simulations is described as follows:
Surrealism mental what now aims at re-creating a condition which will be in no way inferior to

to practice

derangement. is going

Its ambition

is to lead us to the edge of madness

and make

us feel

on in the of those who the community magnificently deranged minds a shuts up in asylums. Is it not possible to experimentally, by simple play of the mind, attain to the same result attained in psychoses one not and neuroses? May in succeed as Salvador Dali confusion", "systematising puts it, "and so assist the total discrediting of reality." (Breton, This Quarter 110) in relation of his work, to Beckett. and the He did,

of the world The after lations of form notion all, of refer

one is a useful confusion" "systematising to the "consternation" behind the form may he was have so found acutely a language aware of.1 that

in the Simu consternation

Beckett which


In addition,
enter into and

the Simulations
in unusual

illustrated how
and pathological

sane and balanced minds

mental states. So, for



ple, in Breton and Eluard's "Attempted Simulation

the following more or less incomprehensible,

of Dementia



or at least


illustrates the disintegration

For myself, raise with tearing I, the undersigned, cover for my as

of speech in schizophrenic
concurd. A mist of feeling

makes me apartment the herb while Elbes its way to


and mushroom mounted

off its head

required. And

understanding on a wall-clearing

crinkles which


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 31, Number 4

His they

Country come

Graetfully, down. When


all modern from


and our Lorelei



as the

I bestow

top to toe to be the beech, my prayer

the forename,

countername, and I shoot in. (Breton,

the intername and the bong The Automatic

and the Parthename gadrins and disappears 191-92)

and I say No thin within

and Canoe

into my

and percusses


Although Beckett did not translate this precise passage for This Quarter, he would have been familiar with the French original. Beckett may have recognized the a use of language which, by possibilities of delirious playing with conventions of sense and meaning, could subvert and established literary techniques. In challenge this respect, the Joyce of Finnegans Wake had led the way in his extensive use of
macaronic was puns to receive the boundaries which challenge an unfortunate reminder of the of sense and nonsense. and Beckett Eluard's credibility of Breton

experiments in the form of a letter from Joyce's schizophrenic daughter, Lucia, in in January 1935. In his biography of Beckett, Anthony Cronin refers to London this letter as resembling "surrealist automatic writing" (Cronin 210) in its disorien tated use of language which Beckett found terrifyingly real, rather than simulated. in Paris Lucia Joyce's descent into madness and he was both distressed and perhaps also fascinated by it.He may privately have taken the view that certain features of her father's genius had become displaced in his daughter a view that has commonly been advanced, not least by leading to her breakdown, the truth about Lucia, Carl Gustav Jung who treated Lucia in Zurich. Whatever Beckett had witnessed
Beckett saw at first hand that madness and incoherence are not always a matter of

simulation, but of lived experience. Interest in Beckett's links with

recently. Daniel Albright's Beckett

the Surrealist movement

for example,

has surfaced only

strongly emphasizes

and Aesthetics,

the influence
translations of

of Surrealism
the Surrealists

on Beckett. Albright
were ... as important

to his

that "Beckett's early

artistic development as

his critical studies of Proust

to the role of the of unconscious inspiration Beckett towards important notions

and Joyce were"

in and made creativity, artistic with

(10). Beckett's
as well spontaneity, ideas of as his has automatism

questioning perhaps and

attitude the

veiled simulation


as translator he through his translation work for This Quarter. In his capacity met Paul Eluard, although he would not meet Andre Breton until after the war (Knowlson 370). Beckett was on through their mutual friend Georges Duthuit was an in Paris in the unavoidable phenomenon the fringes of Surrealism, which inter-war period. Although Beckett signed the Verticalist manifesto, inspired by March the Jungian principles of Eugene Jolas, and which appeared in transition in
1932, Beckett tended intellectual negotiations artistic As credo Albright to avoid movements with and programmatic which, Surrealism towards any manifestoes under typify Breton, his and to remain outside organized was. Beckett's encompassing the unconscious. Surrealism undoubtedly towards ofthe clearly any all of of

ambivalence assertion more



dogmatic saw much

primacy than most

his contemporaries

that art resists the models

on it" (10). But Surrealism imposed

Beckett andLanguage Pathology89 may well have contributed

with and inward unconscious experience and, experience.

to Beckett's
in particular,

evolving views of the artist's relationship

the relationship of language to conscious

It seems unlikely that Beckett's "instincts were Surrealist" (9), as Daniel Albright claims. But Beckett's hermetic late prose texts with their baffling syntax stasis exhibit a linguistic minimalism which could well owe and disconcerting to Breton and Eluard's experiments. As Albright suggests: something
Picasso Beckett, learning maniacal said that he possessing to write spent the most like amental all his life learning how to paint like a child; it seems that

remarkable defective,



of his age, spent goggling

a lifetime idiom,

in a toothless,

broken-jawed, (17)

and compulsive

... a kind

of verbal gravel.

This description may not do full justice to the intricacy and artistry of Beckett's later prose, but nonetheless, texts like /// Seen III Said, Worstward Ho and Stirrings Still seem to enact a linguistic regression that, with a limited linguistic palette, a paradoxically rich and dense patterning of employs language which echoes the
semantic inventiveness relationship of the with Surrealists. Surrealism was ambiguous. On the one hand, Beckett's

to praise Denis Devlin's Intercessions in a 1938 review for "the he was willing insistence with which the ground invades the surface throughout" {Disjecta 94)
and as we have seen, he was The willing perturbations to entertain of form Breton and Eluard's own experiments work may owe in automatic writing. in Beckett's

something to Surrealism, but only in a very indirect way. If he was aware of the mysteries of the unconscious (as his signing of the Verticalist manifesto suggests),
Beckett was more likely, in his own work, to recruit a surreal mode of expression in


deliberate fashion. Indeed the terminology Beckett uses in his review

suggests that he is sceptical about purely irrational expression of the

of Devlin

kind which
and moderate ated


and Eluard

laid claim to. Beckett

Surrealism automatism attempts vehicle. But itself and

speaks of both the "probity"

work, be said which to have represent serve exagger these which spontaneity to can

"profound its the

self-consciousness" Indeed,

of Devlin's



ambiguities. They recruit automatism remains

of pure validity are deliberate as a creative


Simulations verbal extent

to construct the precise

psycho-styles of their


and he adopts,

seems, in his own work, to prefer what

on at least one occasion, a deliberate

I call a controlled
verbal psycho-style

in Lucky s

speech. It isworth examining, then, from the point of view of aberrant language use, Lucky s speech in Waiting for Godot and also the unusual linguistic patterns found in Watt. These are both instances where, Iwill argue, Beckett has co-opted
language unconscious. pathology as a deliberate strategy rather than as an effusion from the

The concept of "formal thought disorder," which is taken from psychiatric a one is to s useful with which evaluate medicine, Lucky speech inAct 1 of Wait one Godot and which the form/content ing for fortuitously preserves dichotomy

90 Journal 4 ofModern Literature Volume 31,Number invoked by Beckett in his essay on Finnegans Wake. Formal thought disorder is a psychiatric term for a disturbance in the form of thought, in the manner of con
ceptualization and in the means of expression. In psychiatry, the term is used in

the following manner:

The ing? "formal" of formal that thought disorder refers to disturbances in the form of think

is, its structure,

as a loss of intelligibility logical guage words sequencing production and phrases individual

of speech

and coherence?which manifest themselves organisation ... most it is the moment-to-moment, commonly is at fault. At other times, the mechanisms of lan

of ideas which themselves is obscured. words, to appear At

to be disturbed, times,

so that the meaning the fault seems

of individual

still other

to be at the level of sense, but there



and sequences productions.

of thought (McKenna

make 10-11)

is no discernible


longer verbal

of formal thought disorder are to be found in the The earliest conceptualizations works of the pioneering psychiatrists Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) and Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939). Kraepelin was the first psychiatrist to identify schizophre
nia as a nosological entity (under its older name of dementia praecox, which he

invented), and the concept of formal thought disorder formed a key part of his clinical analysis. Kraepelin considered "derailment" fundamental to schizophrenic a tendency to make arbitrary speech disorder. He found that patients exhibited one to to central thread of their speech, "derail" the another, topic leaps from in the train of lending the impression of incoherence. This lack of connectedness ideas was
"associative ered more

further elaborated by Eugen

loosening" and "loss of could speech or schizophrenics not their

Bleuler, who
determining some in a The

idea." general

the concepts
Bleuler of consid relevance, did


a central maintain

that while often than

sense manner

digressed message.


a central


purposeless notion of "woolliness

and of



was present
content of over-elaborate

in Bleuler
speech." terms This

and developed
refers to the actually

into the modern

schizophrenic's conveying much

tendency real to

of "poverty of
speak in vague,



"Derailment" is still considered, inmodern day psychiatry, fundamental to for mal thought disorder. In derailment, the speaker slides from one topic to another to the appar without sequential logic, and this "loosening of associations" leads in of connectedness lack of This unrelated topics. ently meaningless juxtaposition the train of ideas gives the impression that there is no clear, teleological thread to
the schizophrenic's to amount complete utterances. incoherence, The "word words salad" and or when "schizophasia" are sentences that so jumbled results can as to be

or made up words may be to the listener. Neologisms completely incomprehensible a tone of "empty philosophizing," inwhich speech prominent. The patient may adopt is bombastic but vague and imprecise while at the same time being verbose and
pseudo-logical. Other a This abnormalities known of "poverty can include as content mutism where "results or in formulaic monotonous leaps from and pompous delivery word aphasia, the speech. tone and to word on




the basis of rhyme or phonological

similarity rather than logical sequence.

andLanguage Beckett Pathology 91 By using the term "formal thought disorder" to describe this range of speech impairments, psychiatrists remind us of the form/content dichotomy. But the link between cognitive impairment and speech impairment is a disputed one and, while it is often assumed inmainstream psychiatry that the latter reflects the former, this is not proven. A range of studies2 by speech pathologists, psychiatrists and linguists demonstrate the complex issues of cognition and language use which this debate entails. These are clinical issues which lie outside the scope of this essay and for our purposes
can be are one;

itwill be assumed that disordered

in schizophrenia. says what he the "sees"

speech and its cognitive underpinnings

assume If we that now content turn to and Lucky expression s speech


In a sense, we or thinks.


inWaiting for Godot, an interesting set of observations can be made. Itwill be remembered that Lucky s tirade inAct I of Waiting for Godot ismade after Pozzo instructs him to think. The best way of describing Lucky's diatribe is even used to think "pseudo-philosophical." We have been told by Pozzo that "He to I him for could listen hours" once, {The Complete Dramatic Works very prettily as of with his but the 39) repertoire of dances, seems to Lucky's thought, quality have deteriorated. The hallmark of the speech is its apparent will to "make sense," to establish something by reasoning, while at the same time satirizing and subverting this process. So Lucky refers to "the existence as uttered forth in the public works of of a personal God" (42) and sententiously asserts that "it is Puncher and Wattmann established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labours of men that as a result of the labours unfinished of Testew and Cunard" (42) in clas sic instances of "empty philosophizing." The "labours of Fartov and Belcher" (42) and other erstwhile authorities do not seem to have added to the sum of Lucky s (or mankind's)
parodied ...


and the putative progress of mankind

to intellectual, social and medical

is humorously

in a series



. . . the strides of in spite of the strides in alimentation and defecation physical .. . . . . ... for sorts sorts of all all and succedanea of sports hockey penicillin reasons unknown to shrink and dwindle. (42-43)

Clearly the "point" of the speech is to undermine the teleological view of human kind, of progress in all its forms while at the same time reminding the audience that
mankind "is seen to waste and pine" (42) as before. In short, progress is an illusion,

the human condition

and death is omnipresent.

is irremediable, intellectual achievements


absurdly inflated

is a crude summary of the content of Lucky s we look at speech. But if the form of the speech we will begin to see how cleverly Beckett has conveyed his message. Lucky exhibits at least five of the main features of schizophrenic thought disorder. He is guilty of "derailment," juxtaposing entirely unrelated words and themes; for example, from speaking of "the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman" This he diverts to "the great plains in the mountains
obvious of any connection. central, His "loosening thread. are of associations" themes, in disorganized cohesive speculations Philosophical tangled up

by the seas" (43), which

is further evocations fashion. illustrated of by

have no
the lack and the end





Journal of Modern Literature Volume 31, Number 4

he becomes
more for than reasons a

rambling and incoherent

schizophrenic unknown in "word spite of salad": the

and his speech is so jumbled that it is little

"concurrently on on the tennis simultaneously beard the flames what the is more stones

so blue so calm alas alas on on" (43). The speech is full of "empty philosophizing" and exhibits "poverty of content" by elaborately announcing itself as thought (with humorous references to the likes of Bishop Berkeley and the Acacacacademy) and or lucid yet saying nothing profound:
in view ofthe labours of Fartov unknown and Belcher of Testew left and Cunard and Cunard in brief (42)

unfinished that man that man

for reasons in Essy in Essy

that man that man

in Possy in short

of Testew that man

its formulaic emptiness and is an example call "stilted speech." Lucky exhibits "poverty of speech" in his muteness throughout the rest ofthe play during which "he can't even groan" (83) but this one outburst exhibits amanic "pressure of speech" (occasionally found in acute schizophrenia) as well as a resounding "poverty of content" of that speech. We should also note that "clanging," the use of similar sounding but incompatible words is conspicuously present: "Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham" (43) and ... "flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating dying flying sports of all sorts" (42). of what clinicians
So we can see, clearly enough, that Lucky's speech is a good example of formal

The formal and learned tone reinforces

a thought disorder. Beckett has used range of pathological

inserted for may them, Iwould the all suggest, audience quite deliberately, these will at this as Godot. Whether not matter recognizes since everyone examples

speech mannerisms
crucial juncture of the speech in pathology



that much




formal emptiness of the speech, which emphasizes the wider emptiness found in Waiting for Godot. Another text inwhich Beckett seems to have sabotaged language in a delib erately anti-rational way is the novel Watt. The humor and style of Watt inhere in the operations of the rational mind rendered as an obsessive irrationality through
an over-determination of rational enquiry. The reader is confronted by mental

disorder masquerading not entirely dissimilar

logic, argues the that rational questions

as the operation of rational faculties the effect of which is to the pseudo-logic of Lucky. By sabotaging and satirizing
appear perception as their and obverse?insanity. representation, which Michael seem to of Beausang lie at the


heart ofthe

novel, are linked to this type of linguistic

of philosophy, Watt

novel, exchanged ratio

the standpoint

has, by the end ofthe and forms

nality for folly, and the logic of substances . . . the mirror of Sam and Watt meeting with the "butterfly kiss" of Murphy, seems

for a phenomenology which invites linguistic

of surfaces comparison deviations

[in the asylum] closely linked

to Watt's every

and to a certain

pathology finds a raison d'etre in a system

of representation. of connections

In practice,


of representation perception

that controls

the subjective

andLanguage Beckett Pathology 93

of reality. Yet, we the object, know that narcissistic troubles symmetry patients result deny vehemently PC. Recamier the attraction of

and that narcissistic the real."Mirror

in what

calls "a singular

struggle with as Watt's being

constitutes on anything

an aspect more validity,

there no longer depends on its way to losing

of this struggle insofar than a surface. At the same is imprisoned strive in a closed in vain ofthe to

time, his language, order where become notion varied thought

its referential of words We

permutations of adequate developed

and combinations communication. by Jean Charcot,

and sentences

systems of aphasia,

are reminded, for whom

in this respect, includes

the term

all those his

and subtle modifications by signs operating

that can be presented (500)

by man's


to express


Watt can be read as an epistemological quest inwhich the schizoid confusion ofthe title character hinders his adaptation to the exigencies of reality as it is perceived and as it is represented through language. The difficulties Watt experiences in
naming or denoting an object or event illustrate both his hermeneutic confusion

and his linguistic

... if Watt was

sometimes no unsuccessful, appeared, reason, and sometimes successful often neither ... in foisting a


there where

meaning with

he was most

the one, nor the when to

other. For Watt he could disperse been evolve, them,

considered, from as often forWatt.

that he was

successful, him, ... For

in this enterprise, a hypothesis to explain

the meticulous as this might (Watt 74) is here

phantoms be found

that beset necessary

proper had


to exorcise, or


the material



as a set of



that must be exorcised. Watt tual phenomena

engagement interrogations, is but an echo of self with are of

must divest himself of the onerous burden of percep the object or event as a specter and preventing any real by treating
other. His really true hermeneutic a means at times which resemble maniacal explanations, as of evasion, much Lucky's pseudo-philosophy Watt's schizoid detachment from engagement.

people, objects and words defines his peculiar struggle with reality; he experiences both himself and the world around him as unreal, and in his closed linguistic system the relationship of self to world aswell as language to objects is insecure:
... andWatt that prevented was had been him frequently from and exceedingly conviction, troubled ... by this indefinable relief, of the object thing that

saying, with a pot,

and to his

so like a pot, a

that itwas

and of the creature human sense of

that still in spite of everything that itwas a man. (79)

presented Watt has

large number a stable

of exclusively and secure

characteristics, self nor a firm



in the world

around him. It is as if the world

inexplicable sang suggests, and unfathomable a world of as with

of tangible phenomena were

subjective where identity. the So we amorphous are surfaces

a specular realm, as
presented, data of as Beau experience

carry no weight. The unreality which Watt feels influences the tenor of his percep tions and invades the linguistic fabric of the novel. It becomes the pathological
basis of representation through language, the signs which Beausang describes as

94 Journal 4 ofModern Literature Volume 31,Number "operating pathologically." And thus the concrete significance of events evaporates mere example of light commenting bodies, and stillness motion, and they become "a
and silence sound, and comment comment" (70).

Because of this psychopathological aversion to reality, Watt treats language as a closed system without external referents. The and signifier signified become dis connote and words and and permute joined arbitrarily aimlessly. Hence the surface of reality (perceived objects and events) and the surface of language (the sonorous and lexical quality of the words) become self-contained and self-sufficient and cease to be mutually interdependent. As Beausang says, in this scenario language loses
its validity as a referential agent. Watt, then, draws our attention to the "thingness"

of things and to the "wordness" of words, depicting them as mutually independent zones. And this invocation of the materiality of language, as distinct from the objects it describes, has significance for Beckett's later prose and is already anticipated in Beckett's awareness of the form/content dichotomy in relation to Joyce. Of course Watt, like Waiting for Godot, does employ explicit instances of lan guage pathology. The "wild dim chatter" (208) ofMr. Knott is related to the voice ofWatt as he relates his experiences to Sam in the asylum:
Watt ciation, received. spoke ... with scant regard for grammar, known, for syntax, for pronunciation, for spelling too, as these are for enun generally

and very (154)


if the truth were

His garbled sentences and "rapid" and "low" (154) voice represent linguistically the capsizing of the novel into insanity. The shared linguistic aberrations ofWatt and
Mr. Knott are symbolically linked in the aligned locales of the asylum (where Watt

recounts his story) and the big house (where he servesMr. Knott). pairing insanity and its locales are joined together.
A axy" garden distinctly Mr. mental malaise seems "the Arthur" to encompass entire house-room, Mr. Knott's the whole the Knott that encompasses of course insane Knott

In this irrational
in an the "atar




pleasure-garden, eccentricities have

vegetable a surreal and

aspect: to himself this so too, with that great variety it came, a wild and vehemence dim of intonation to

talked often but

and gesticulation, Watt's ailing


chatter, meaningless

ears. (208)

The invasion of nonsense well-executed

novel's and the question satirizing "What?" of

inWatt, through mental pathology, adds force to Beckett's claims. The answer to the of any grandiose philosophical sabotage
is, of search course, for "Not," either. the negation would of seem the There knowledge to be an or truth epistemo

logical nihilism behind the "wild dim chatter" of Mr. Knott that echoes Lucky's empty philosophising. Rationalism pursued to its logical end results in insanity, a process which the novel interrogates. We have "a tale told by a psychotic to a psychotic" (Hesla 60), which is symbolized through the erratic use of language. Towards the end of part three,Watt makes nonsensical elucidations to Sam of his time on the first floor of
Mr. Knott's house:

Beckett andLanguage Pathology95

Dis nem yb dis, owt. Yad la, tin fo trap. Skin, skin, skin. Od ta kool su did ned Taw? On. Taw ta kool tonk? Nilb,

ot klat tonk? On.Tonk mun, mud. Tin

ot klat taw? On.Tonk la. Nem

taw? On. Taw (166)

fo trap, yad

owt, dis yb dis.

Although Watt's
phrenic patient,

"word-salad" resembles
there is one important

the impoverished
difference. It has

speech of the schizo

been rationally decon

structed and can easily be reconstructed (in the above instance just by reading the words backwards). As Ruby Cohn points out:
Watt's he anti-language is a rational and systematic construction. which 71) Even failed in his madness, him, and it is not

is unable

to give up that reason the anagrams

and that language into English.


to rearrange


Just aswith Lucky's speech, Beckett has deployed amethodical linguistic madness. never is which under the is novel, siege throughout quite supplanted Rationality,
by irrationality the whereby or latter insanity. by the Beckett maintains the former escapes the tension he of occupies into reason an and madness, authorial To hin speak invoking terland over-utilizing text only narrowly and



of nothing, one necessarily

one must often make use of

says something
the conventions

and to speak of madness,

of sense and meaning,

and be heard,
and therefore

of sanity. But Beckett knows where those boundaries lie and he has deliberately flirted with the limits of sense and nonsense, of sanity and insanity.
In the above examples from Godot and Watt, we see Beckett deliberately co

opting language pathology in a carefully orchestrated sabotage of rational speech and thinking. He is using controlled irrationally to explore the borders of sense and
meaning. convincing In the and we later prose, I would of texts argue, this careful find In instances such late language working as Worstward Ho, balancing as a system Beckett act becomes of signs less operat been

ing pathologically.


to have

something the use of

swayed by the rhythms of language pathology. My

ideas of Gilles linguistic Deleuze, mode who within has written a major on language,

analysis here owes

or which Deleuze

to the


an unfamiliar

aspects concern like

as akin to using
critical use of to of Beckett's some fair

a foreign

language within
have interesting late phase. of the view First

language. The psychiatric

insofar implications of all, however, as they I would

of Deleuze's

to recap It seems

language the well-worn that the

in his

territory consensual

Beckett-Joyce of the

relationship. relation



ship is that Joyce was an intellectual father figure for Beckett

his own literary identity in the post-war writings, he was

and that, in forging

able to escape


from Joyce's shadow. One

relationship as it pertains

frequently quoted remark by Beckett

to the respective a authors'use of

sheds light on this

language: perhaps the

. . . the difference greatest. He was

was is that Joyce making words

superb manipulator maximum

of material, of work. There

do the absolute

isn't a syl

I'm not master of my superfluous. The kind of work I do is one in which material. The more Joyce knew the more he could. His is toward omniscience tendency as an artist. I'm and omnipotence with I don't think ignorance. working impotence, that impotence has been exploited in the past. There seems to be a kind of aesthetic

lable that's


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 31, Number 4

is an achievement?must that expression be an achievement. My little explora zone of as set aside is that whole being that has always been by artists something ? as art. (Shenker,"An with Interview unusable definition something by incompatible axiom tion with These Beckett" 148) relate to Beckett's aim of "without and





using the French language to achieve this end. Beckett is said to have been inter ested in the "shape of ideas" asmuch as the intellectual content of ideas as illustrated
by his admiration for the sentence "Do not despair: one of the thieves was saved.


not presume: one of the thieves was damned," which he regarded as having "wonderful shape."4 Again, the form/content dichotomy is seen to be conspicuous
in Beckett's own ruminations on his use of language.


know by now that Beckett was an immensely gifted prose stylist and his
on "style" do not refer to a unique literary form that has no recogniz

able rhythm,

syntax and wordplay.

have suggested,

Rather, Beckett
to escape the

turned to French,
psychological and

as many

in order

baggage of his native English tongue and then triumphantly translated (or trans muted) his work back into English. Beckett wrote in French to avoid cliche and
cultural mannerisms we not rather must be than to write of "without taking his self-evaluations, Beckett for Joyce, does cautious with style." As own assessment and own he many Beckett value. that, is at face recognizes case, language





language's inadequacy in his the writer whereas,

the medium
familiar with to we

through which
the stay must paradoxes silent, of

he enunciates
of the Beckettian

project, expressed in

and ignorance. We
of his narrators' desire sense-generative inquisitive Therefore,

are all
but and "Que

incapacity so on. And voulez-vous, wariness of

non-meaning Beckett's les mots; seen in the

text, reader:

remember C'est must be

Monsieur? language

rejoinder on n'a rien context

to one


Beckett's as

of his


in it as well

his apparent appreciation

Sherzer has . . . when words to his noted: he makes


enabling power it gives him and others. As Dina









and their incapacity interest in sounds,

of meaning.


he points

to the materiality (50)

of language,

and to the possibilities

of syntax.


like most writers,


is aware of the possibilities

and pitfalls


letter of 1937 to Axel Kaun, Beckett refers to "that ter ofthe word surface"which he desires to see "dissolved" so that "what to seep through" (Disjecta 172). lurks behind it?be it something or nothing?begins can be negated and in its place ofthe word" this means, Joyce's "apotheosis (172) By In his famous German rible materiality
an "apotheosis of the unword" may be substituted. This view of things substantiates

the widely held view of Beckett and Joyce's respective approaches to language.
However, be done Iwish to suggest that the materiality in the of "the word" explores cannot an almost so readily away with. Beckett, especially late prose, Joycean

Beckett andLanguage Pathology 97

sound And world here, that very is sometimes conspicuously, characterized the materiality by that Wakeaxi of "the word" device, returns the as

neologism. a Joycean

ghost helping to create the haunted quality ofthe late trilogy (Company, III Seen III Said and WorstwardHo). The "ghost loved ones" (Complete Dramatic Works 429) of A Piece of Monologue are seen in the late prose to be both human and intellectual Beckett had supposedly buried in the immediate post-war period. which ghosts in an The materiality of the word in Finnegans Wake multiplies meanings
expansive Joyce": This writing painting that you find ... Here so obscure is a quintessential economy extraction of language Here words and are their vista of macaronic puns. As Beckett suggests in "Dante ... Bruno. Vico..

and gesture

is the savage

of hieroglyphics.

not the contortions of 20th century printer's ink. They are alive. They elbow polite on to the and way page, {Disjecta 28) glow and blaze and fade and disappear.


own a some things in their right and not descriptive substitute for are more are than they signs thing else; they signifiers and their signification seems secondary to their sound. The intellectual flashiness of Dream ofFair to Middling become
which includes various unusual juxtapositions of words and languages, is


clearly influenced by Joycean experimentation

austere manner, Beckett returns to the knotty

and it seems that, in a minimalist,

"thisness" or "quiddity" of language,

most notably inWorstward Ho. This process following terms:

I would which suggest he was that Beckett, more intimately by Joyce's at first influenced aware ? ultimately propelling engaged creation project through language as unstillable and most mirrors open than the

is described by David Hayman

in the

by the formal

tactics writer,

of the Wake was


any contemporary self-annulling, complete ... Beckett's

later and self wor(l)d


ofthe flux

non-statement?the progress toward statement

and the human evocation, is a


the minimal of absence

the minimal which


the rhythmical creative


and reverses




The key insight here is that Beckett

experimentation. more and less. He how maintains His minimalist on is intent its macaronic rhythm reducing

both "mirrors and reverses" Joyce's linguistic

aesthetics language a limited of Joyce. makes paradoxically to a residual stutter vocabulary, "does the words which some than the do

and, with




The following
experiments Worse best. Least. Never words

paragraph from Worstward Ho

extreme: for want Naught

shows Beckett's

late linguistic

at their most

less. By no stretch more. Worse Best worse. Least No. Not best worst. Least never

of better

less. Less Less to

best. No. Naught best worse. No.

not best worse. Never

best worse.

to be naught. least. of worser Say worst.


be brought.

by naught

be nulled.

Unnullable For want

that best worst. With Unlessenable

say least best worse.

leastening least best worse.

{NohowOn 106)

98 Journal 4 ofModern Literature Volume 31,Number

The tortuous here resemble Deleuze's notion of the combinatorial



he elucidates

ett exhausts combination

offered other,

essay on Beckett, "The Exhausted." Beck the range of the possible, in this case fusing virtually every possible of "worse, best, least, less, null and naught" just as in Watt we are in his well-known
equally exhaustive/exhausting, sets of combinations.6 In Watt vie are

confronted by the "thingness" of concrete objects such as Watt's bedroom furniture or footwear. But inWorstward Ho we find that words themselves have entered the
combinatorial system as concrete entities. In this late work, the form/content dis

tinction has all but disappeared. The "direct expression" {Disjecta 25) that Beckett identifies in Joyce's Work inProgress has been readopted by Beckett in a process of lexical and semantic play which maximizes the amount of work each word does.
This phenomenon, of words as self-reflexive, independent entities, can also be

viewed as a "concretization" of language that foregrounds the sonorous and syllabic is found, almost invariably, in qualities of the words. And such a phenomenon a schizo to I disorder. referred earlier "clanging," whereby schizophrenic language to will unrelated words that sound similar. phrenic speaker digress by using happen This trait is linked to the "concretization" of language where the schizophrenic more absorbed by the "thingness" of speaker, in his very incoherence, will often be uses to. he than what refer the words they by in his essay "LouisWolfson; Gilles Deleuze, or, The Procedure" (included in

a account of this type of schizophrenic Essays Critical and Clinical) offers fascinating describes in He the disorder. analyzes language "procedure" that Louis Wolfson a his book Le Schizo et les Langues for which Deleuze wrote the preface. Wolfson,
schizophrenic "student of languages, "is determined to negate his native American

English by substituting foreign words for those of his maternal tongue. He replaces in a foreign language, principally these words with ones with a similar meaning
French, nal that similar wire" German, will be Russian be or Hebrew. in terms a sentence, (8). So "Thus," of its writes Deleuze, elements "an sentence it can analysed into converted or phonetic in one or more a simple ordinary and movements mater so is the and

to it in sound becomes

meaning" treb uber

foreign sentence like

languages, "Don't trip

which over


eth he Zwirn,"

a mixture

of German,



(8). This Babel-like procedure amounts to a dissection of the maternal Eng lish and is, according to Deleuze, the psychotic procedure,par excellence: "Psychosis is inseparable from a variable linguistic procedure. The procedure is the very process of the psychosis" (9). On this view, linguistic subversion is inherent to the psychotic state and is closely related toDeleuze's idea of the writer forging a foreign language


his own language.Writers, claims Deleuze, mirror the psychotic procedure new language within language, a foreign language, as itwere. They by inventing "a new to grammatical and syntactic powers. They force language outside light bring
its customary furrows, they make it delirious' (Deleuze, lv; emphasis Deleuze's).

The actual mother

tor. She represents self-confessed returns to his evasion favorite

of Le Schizo et lesLangues
tongue and errors and is also of domestic theme, the social of

is described as a double-persecu
the chief With toWolfson's antagonist Deleuze this in mind,

the mother



andLanguage Beckett Pathology 99

Psychoanalysis to a single contains refrain, but a single error: it reduces which all the adventures is sometimes played of psychosis by psycho But the and

the eternal and not this

daddy-mommy, raised




to the level of symbolic he wanders


does schizophrenic ? cosmic categories rewriting De natura

live in familial is why he evolves

categories, is always in things put

among world-wide He



is continually

rerum. He of words put

and inwords. What in his ears and mouth, language

he terms "mother" an organisation it ismy it is my

is an organisation of things mother mother The

that has been in his body. it is not my of organs,

that has been

It is not my organism collection

that is maternal, from the mother, (17) his own

who who

is a language; is a collection

that comes

of my own organs. and universalize



to exteriorize



reflected in his attitude to the mother. The schizo's procedure could be viewed not
just cosm, The as an attempt earth linguistic to "de-maternalize" or mother subversions tongue. are himself It but to "de-maternalize" more of this than process, the macro mother schizo's is cosmic it is microcosmic. his determina

a reflection

tion to evade the maternal both symbolically and actually. The schizo's efforts to create a foreign language from his own language reflect a pathological process, the
healthy The other expression inspiration, a measured But lish, we guage when have are most of which in each creative Beckett, reached case, is the writer's is similar but need one to defamiliarize reflects a pathological his own tongue. the process,

effort. in Worstward Ho, overlap uses where a unusual the amalgams attempts of standard Eng lan language.




to defamiliarize within



of creating



"variable linguistic The materiality of Beckett's language touches upon Deleuze's so that ifwe take a passage such as the following from Worstward Ho, procedure" we can almost feel the physical presence of language inwhich sound is at least as
important Blanks All when Dimmed. gone. as sense: for when words gone. When dim. All In it ooze nohow on. Then all seen as only then. Undimmed. ooze then. No trace on soft for seen on. No as seen with ooze for when ooze. ooze

undimmed from No

that words it ooze ooze again.

so seen unsaid. again. Ooze For when


alone nohow

for seen undimmed. 112)

{Nohow On

This sentence
haps a limit

inhabits the border region of linguistic experimentation

the next step is nonsense and insanity. Beckett

and is per
seems here

case where

to be playing with the semantic qualities ofthe words with a Joycean sense of their sound and rhythm. Using Deleuzean terminology, we could say that, as the Beckettian project
advances, there is a greater tendency to "schizophrenize" language, that is, to

defamiliarize and concretize it.And similarly, the Oedipal terms inwhich Joyce as father figure has often been viewed in relation to Beckett become increasingly
irrelevant, and the male as do maternal persona of reference Company woman The points. spectral seem to dissolve into a neutral of III Seen (and neuter) III Said world


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 31, Number 4

of pure language inWorstward Ho. In Beckett's late prose generally, we sense that he is increasingly "Alone" {Nohow On 46).Words, Beckett's "only loves" {Complete
Short Prose 162), become the "literature-as-process" without origin or closure

so characteristic
as Deleuze's

of late Beckett. And

such indeterminacy
which denies the

can be characterized
gendered polarities of


Oedipus. Language becomes, as far as is possible, just language, without subject, or pronoun. Of course, we are here at the frontier of what is object, verb possible in literature, but Iwould suggest that Beckett knew that having reached this point, silence would be the only logical outcome. So, in a certain sense, the Beckettian project comes full circle. Beginning with Joycean imitation inDream ofFair to Middling Women, it proceeds to the matu rity of the Trilogy and drama, only to return to the variable linguistic procedure with which it started. Rather behind the nothingness a linguistic web achievement

than trying to "bore holes" in language to discover (as he states in the 1937 German letter), he has created through which we see the nothingness directly. This is the great of Beckett's late prose and perhaps amounts to the fulfillment of his

1. Beckett comments in awell-known interview with Israel Shenker: "You notice how Kafka's form is classic, it goes on like a steamroller?almost is in the form. In my work the consternation (Shenker, 2. "An Interview with Beckett" 148). underpinnings in schizophrenia, see Frith, Harvey serene. It seems to be threatened there is consternation behind the whole time?but

the form, not in the form"

On speech pathology and Crystal and Varley. Beckett

and its neurocognitive

is reported to have said that he switched sans style" (Gessner, 32). facile decrire plus 3. 4. Beckett quoted by Hobson, Beckett "Words About Words: Beckett "Samuel Beckett: and Language" 50.

to writing

in French:


en francais



of the Year" 153. Also

cited by Sherzer,




is reported to have said this to Niklaus 230. by Robinson,


who wrote

the first book


study of

6. Deleuze's Beckett

properties of the combinatorial illuminating discussion of the exhaustive/exhausting forms part of the opening of "The Exhausted" {Essays Critical and Clinical 152-54).


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Beausang,Michel. 495-502. Beckett, -.

Insanity, Aphasia."Trans.

Valerie Galiussi.

Samuel. Murphy. Watt.

1938. London: John Calder,

John Calder, 1976.


1953. London:

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-. -. -. -. The Complete Dramatic Nohow Disjecta. On: Company, Works. London: Faber and Faber, 1986. York: Grove P, 1996.

III Seen III Said, Worstward Ho. New London: John Calder, 1983.

Ed. Ruby Cohn.

The Complete Short Prose 1929-1989. Breton, Andre, ed. This Quarter 5 (September

Ed. S.E. Gontarski. 1932). Surrealist

New York: Grove Special Issue. Melville

P, 1995.

Breton, Andre. The Automatic Message. Trans. David Gascoyne, Anti-Classics of Surrealism. London: Atlas P, 1998. Cohn, Cronin, Ruby. Samuel Beckett: The Comic Gamut. New Anthony. Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist. and Rosemary Varley, eds. Introduction Brunswick, London: to


and Jon Graham.

NJ: Rutgers UP, Harper Collins,

1962. 1997.

Crystal, David Deleuze, Gilles.


Pathology. Smith

London: Whurr, Greco.

1988. London:

Verso, Frith,

Essays 1998. D.


and Clinical. Trans. Daniel W.

and Michael

Christopher 1992. Niklaus.

The Cognitive


of Schizophrenia.





Die Unzuldnglickeit der Sprache: eine Untersuchung bei Samuel Zurich: Beckett. Junis Verlag, 1957. sigkeit Philip D. "Formal thought disorder in schizophrenia: in Schizophrenia. Ed. Tonmoy Sharma

uber Formzufall

und Beziehungslo


nings." Cognition UP, 2000 Hayman, Hesla, David, David Minnesota Harold. Hobson, 153-155. Knowlson, McKenna, Robinson, H.

characteristics and cognitive underpin and Philip D. Harvey. Oxford: Oxford

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James. Damned P.J. Schizophrenia Michael.

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The Long Sonata

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Translating Beckett/Beckett Translating. Sherzer. University Park: Pennsylvania

The Critical Heritage. Shenker, Israel. "An Interview with Beckett."SamuelBeckett: and Raymond Federman. New York: Routledge, 1979.146-149. Wolfson, Louis. Le Schizo et les Langues. Paris: Gallimard, 1970.

Ed. Lawrence