The Ideal Real: Beckett's Fiction and Imagination

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994 - 265 pagina's
The conclusions reached in The Ideal Real are not the same as those reached by most commentary on Beckett's works. Most Beckett criticism seeks falsely to over-simplify or align Beckett's point of view with existentialism, the absurd, or the pessimistic nihilism underlying much postmodern thought. Beckett, though one of the century's leading intellects, was also an intuitive who realized the Western empirical mind was an out-dated program that had long ceased to be of any help in understanding the human situation. The "disintegration" of mind and body felt by his characters reflects the disastrous effect of the continued imposition of that "reason-ridden" consciousness. At the same time it opens the door to a new possibility.
The Beckett heroes, whose experiences are discussed in this book, were conditioned by a "humanistic" education much like Beckett's; but they come to find that the self they were taught to see as their own is nonexistent. Having nothing in their acquired personality to cope with this crisis, Murphy, Molloy, Moran, Malone, and all that follow find themselves dying to their old self, to everything a Western liberal education could think of as self. Early on, Beckett saw clues to the situation in the work of Jung, the "mind doctor" who represented the opposite of the empirical tradition. Jung, like the esoteric schools, saw a potential human whose development was sometimes delayed or prevented by the very system the claimed to "educate" and "civilize" the personality. The existence of this potential self has been doubted by many modern thinkers, but Beckett's stories show "a soul denied in vain" since it is the enabler of all speech, whether apparently denying or affirming. No knowledge can be considered apart from the knower.
In The Ideal Real, Paul Davies argues that Beckett saw this potential self emerging in the world of imagination and symbol, especially in this age where language alone has come to be seen as the vehicle of education and the determiner of identity. He renders in prose the collapse of the illusive world of self to which the European cult of personality devoted three centuries, and witnesses its annihilation in the death before death - the white light of contemporary physics, the "void" of Zen - from which all trace of personality has fallen.
From the 1920s to Beckett's last year, this study follows all the stages his fiction writing went through in order to face this matter uncompromisingly. The perspective taken by Davies sees the postmodern critical climate as an inadequate and reductive context within which to contemplate and comment on works of art. It seeks to recognize that creative imagination is a vital aspect of all mental activity that is not doomed to the inferno of Beckett's lost world.

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