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‘Viewless forms’/ Form-of-life: death, story and poiēsis in Texts for Nothing

Carville, C. (2023) ‘Viewless forms’/ Form-of-life: death, story and poiēsis in Texts for Nothing. Journal of Beckett Studies, 32 (2). pp. 179-194. ISSN 1759-7811

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3366/jobs.2023.0403


Beckett’s thirteen short prose pieces Texts for Nothing seems to shuttle between two discrete worlds that somehow bear upon each other, although the nature of the relation between them is highly mobile. One possible approach to the work is through Beckett’s reference to the idea of a ‘form of life’ in TFN6: ‘Or to know it’s life still, a form of life, ordained to end, as others ended and will end’ (Beckett, 1995, 125). The phrase holds out the possibility of a graspable difference between the two worlds abovementioned: in one of them life has form, in the other, it does not. Beckett’s source for the term, which goes back to Goethe, is Ernst Cassirer’s Kant’s Life and Thought. ‘Form of life’ can also be found sporadically in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and, more consistently in the work of Giorgio Agamben, to whose thought I appeal to at the end of this essay. But before that I consider in detail the way Texts for Nothing grapples with the question of how a form can be given to a life, and in particular the opposition between narrative and poesis that the work considers.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:115293
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press

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