Silence in Modern Literature and Philosophy: Beckett, Barthes, Nancy, Stevens

Springer Verlag (2018)
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Abstract

This book discusses the elusive centrality of silence in modern literature and philosophy, focusing on the writing and theory of Jean-Luc Nancy and Roland Barthes, the prose of Samuel Beckett, and the poetry of Wallace Stevens. It suggests that silence is best understood according to two categories: apophasis and reticence. Apophasis is associated with theology, and relates to a silence of ineffability and transcendence; reticence is associated with phenomenology, and relates to a silence of listenership and speechlessness. In a series of diverse though interrelated readings, the study examines figures of broken silence and silent voice in the prose of Samuel Beckett, the notion of shared silence in Jean-Luc Nancy and Roland Barthes, and ways in which the poetry of Wallace Stevens mounts lyrical negotiations with forms of unsayability and speechlessness.

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Chapters

Coda: Eloquent Silence

In this short, concluding section to the book, Gould elliptically considers the critical and theoretical association between silence and eloquence as examples of the alienation of language.

Some Senses of Silence in Wallace Stevens

Through close analysis of a series of poems, Gould suggests ways in which Wallace Stevens’ poetry negotiates themes of silence and unsayability, in particular relation to anteriority and origin. Gould shows ways in which Stevens’ poetry collapses the distinction between silere and tacere, surveys va... see more

Shared Silence: Jean-Luc Nancy with Roland Barthes

In this chapter, Gould explores the meanings of sharing and keeping silence through a comparative negotiation of the philosophy and writings of Jean-Luc Nancy and Roland Barthes. Gould traces Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophical trajectory from a deconstructive approach to “community” to the radically red... see more

Broken Silence: Samuel Beckett

The work of Samuel Beckett is frequently associated with themes silence, typically a silence that relates to the solitude and solipsism of his narrators. Focusing on Beckett’s prose, and with an overwhelming emphasis on the late text Company, Gould instead shows the ways in which silence relates to ... see more

Apophasis and Reticence

In this chapter, Gould proposes that silence in modern literature and philosophy is best understood according to two interrelated categories: apophasis and reticence. Gould associates apophasis with negative theology and its legacy in modern thinking, particularly Wittgenstein, whereby silence and t... see more

Introduction

Beginning with a discussion of George Oppen’s poem “Of Being Numerous”, Gould summarises the difficulties and necessities of silence in relation to modern philosophy, poetry and literature. Focusing on the strategic and ethical impulses of Barthes and Blanchot, as well as the famous final propositio... see more

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