Date of Award

8-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Stanton B. Garner Jr.

Committee Members

Allen Dunn, Les Essif, Mary Papke

Abstract

The aging body is a universal feature of corporeal existence and, in every sense, aging alters physical and mental performance. Approaches to age and performance studies often focus upon the aging actor or the challenges faced by actors when they are cast in roles which require them to act the part of a much older character. Samuel Beckett’s use of aged or aging characters has gone relatively unnoticed by scholars, especially in his dramatic works. This dissertation positions aging as vital to engaging with Beckett’s drama. Aged figures appear across Beckett’s career ranging from his earliest works to his latest. Beckett’s drama imposes agedness upon characters in ways that confine or impair their bodies while allowing their minds, particularly memory, to transcend the limitations of their physical worlds. I examine the history of Beckett’s staging of the body to reveal points of intersection between his use of age and his increasing interest in staging the interior registers of subjectivity. This study utilizes impairment and confinement as a binary through which to explore Beckett’s depictions of the entropy and stasis that accompany the aging process, the decomposition that results from age, and Beckett’s staged applications of prosthetic memory that correspond to the embodied subjectivity of age. The premise of my research is interdisciplinary in scope. I draw upon studies in gerontology, chemistry, and performance in order to situate age as integral to engagement with Samuel Beckett’s works. In this way, my dissertation establishes the analysis of age as a relevant avenue for scholarship not only in Beckett studies but also as a point of intersection that links gerontology to the fields of drama, performance, and literary studies.

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