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‘The two dirty strokes above are from my falling asleep while I write(.)’: Corresponding materiality in The Letters of Samuel Beckett

Abstract : Samuel Beckett’s reflexive comment invites the correspondent – and now the reader at large – to picture the author’s epistolary writing process. The image of the pen involuntarily hitting the surface of the paper allows not so much a reflection on what is written as on how the letter is written. Thoughts are indeed physically transcribed through the written gesture and the mediation of a multi-layered process, which sometimes presents some resistance: the pen or typewriter might be defective, the paper of poor quality, the writing surface quite limited, the cognitive and physical processes diminished, etc. The transcription and publication of Beckett’s letters have eased the pain readers could have experienced in reading the original letters. Those who have had the opportunity to visit the author’s archives know how difficult deciphering Beckett’s handwriting is. Hence, the letter, not only taken as an authorial and autobiographical testimony but also as a genuine object, has somehow lost its visual effect in the editorial process. Yet, if the synecdochic movement of the collection – straightforwardly entitled The Letters of Samuel Beckett – does not give full credit to the plurality of materials used (letter papers, postcards, pages of a notebook, business cards, etc.), the choice of such a title nonetheless emphasises the material support itself. The physical object is transmitted to the correspondent by post, but those letters are now given another materiality thanks to the collection. By investigating Beckett’s epistolary writing, this paper offers a reflection on the relationship between the hand and the Papier-Machine (Derrida, 2001) and on the aesthetic of the page. From “epistolary scraps” (TCD, MS 4662) to published letters, this discussion aims at giving a clearer image of a process which is often silenced – or rather unseen.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - 4:56:19 PM
Last modification on : Friday, March 4, 2022 - 3:54:24 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-03462252, version 1



Mégane Mazé. ‘The two dirty strokes above are from my falling asleep while I write(.)’: Corresponding materiality in The Letters of Samuel Beckett. Corresponding with Beckett, Palgrave Macmillan, In press. ⟨hal-03462252⟩



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