Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

English

Major Professor

Allen Dunn

Committee Members

Mary E. Papke, Stanton B. Garner, Jr.

Abstract

While there has been a great deal of scholarship and a variety of approaches to analysis of the works of Samuel Beckett, there has been surprisingly little excavation of the carceral, restrictive, and debilitating formations vital to the structure of his plays. For example, the carcerality prevalent throughout While there has been a great deal of scholarship and a variety of approaches to analysis of the works of Samuel Beckett, there has been surprisingly little excavation of the carceral, restrictive, and debilitating formations vital to the structure of his plays. For example, the carcerality prevalent throughout Endgame informs the dramatic (motivations) through expressions of confinement, constraint, and immobility. Physical debilitation such as Hamm‘s literal paralysis is juxtaposed against Clov‘s self-imposed position of paralyzing servitude. The repetition that frames Endgame mirrors the institutional carcerality of the prison where restrained movement and total confinement are coupled with constant surveillance—and in Clov‘s case, self-surveillance. Michel Foucault‘s reference to the model of Bentham‘s Panopticon in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison provides a framework through which to explore formations of surveillance, restriction, and carcerality in Beckett‘s dramatic works. Foucault‘s theories on carcerality are especially helpful in examining the centralizing elements in Endgame, such as Hamm‘s position at center stage, as a system of carcerality that presents a decidedly panoptic mechanism. Paralysis, incapacity, and debility are devices that are employed with abandon in Beckett‘s plays. This paper explores how incapacity and carceral structures in Beckett‘s Endgame, Happy Days, Play, Not I, and Catastrophe reflect larger social and historical implications and how Beckett‘s treatment of subjectivity anticipates Michel Foucault‘s explorations of carcerality.

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