1992. The Hague - The Beckett Silence:  A Semiotic View.

By C. George SANDULESCU, Monaco.

(Paper given at the International Symposium "Beckett in the 1990s", which took place in The Hague between 8 and 12 April 1992.)


0.    Epigraph:

                                                                                    sssh !

                                                                        (from Beckett's Film)

1.            The basic assumption is that the Humanities, and consequently the Theory of Literature, are to an equal extent in need of closely correlated theoretical constructs, approximating a philosophical system: the paradox is that what is a commonplace in the Exact Sciences is downright heresy in the Humanities.

2.            Operating at meta-level is the construct of territory (coming from Ethology): the writer, and unfortunately the Critic too, inevitably move within a given Territory, concretely marked in the same manner in which the Painter physically constructs his canvas; to continue the analogy, the creative writer's palette is not a support for bits of colour, but rather for (a) bits of language(s), and (b) BITS of information, in the sense given it by Communications Studies.

3.            It is in the attitude towards Language & Information that Beckett (and Joyce) are inherently different from all previous writers, and all other writing: considering them together  with the rest is the error of the Critic. The idea of a 'silent' writer, and consequently a silent piece of writing (see both writers' credos), cancels all traditional assumptions in Discourse Analysis.

4.            Defining the creative writer as a discourse-producing individual leads one, in the respective cases of Joyce & Beckett (cf. slogans 'SILENCE, exile, and CUNNING' vs. 'there is NOTHING TO EXPRESS'), to the important construct of Silent Discourse, which is an oxymoron; it is clearly embodied in Joyce's FW as well as in most of Beckett. The reason at this stage for Joyce & Beckett standing quite apart and away from all fellow-writers is the deliberate introduction of Explicit Silence into world literature, as a Discourse Presupposition (in the Frege sense).

5.            The following three questions are offered here for further consideration within the present Fragestellung Approach (adopted mainly for limitations of time):

                    (a)    What IS SILENCE ? (there are several STRONG as well as several WEAK options in the complex process of defining it)

                    (b)    What is the specific range of a possible Typology of it ?

                    (c)    What is the fundamental difference between Joyce's Silence and Beckett's Silence ?

6.            CONCLUSION. The constructs of --

               (d)    Silence-in-the-Absence-of-the-Communicant(s) (or Communicators),

               (e)    Silence-in-the-Absence-of-the-Word,

               (f)    Silence-in-the-Presence-of-the-Word,

               (g)    Silence-in-the-(Genre-induced)-Presence-of-the-Public,

would be central in merely beginning to outline some kind of tentative answers, open as they may be to controversy, regarding the Questions (a), (b), and (c).

7.            N.B.    The inquisitive analyst would also be in need of the category of Literary Device, which I develop elsewhere.