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    “A Positive Statement of a Negative Thing”: Nietzschean Eternal Recurrence as Dramatic Form in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot

    Fogarty, Matthew (2022) “A Positive Statement of a Negative Thing”: Nietzschean Eternal Recurrence as Dramatic Form in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Modern Drama, 65 (4). pp. 522-546. ISSN 0026-7694

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    Much has been written in the late twentieth and early twentyfirst centuries about the pessimistic tenor of Samuel Beckett’s middleperiod plays. With specific reference to Waiting for Godot , however, this essay draws a distinction between the pessimistic appearance of the content that partially constitutes this text and the nature of the formal medium through which it is realized. In short, I argue that there is a critical disjunction between what this play says and what this play does. Conceptually speaking, this essay is primarily concerned with Beckett’s textual engagement with the theory of eternal recurrence, that is, the idea that all occurrences have happened innumerable times before, and will happen again, and again, in an infinitely recurring cycle. Focusing on how Waiting for Godot developed, both in translation and as a performance piece under the direction of its author, I demonstrate that Beckett’s metatheatrical dramatization of eternal recurrence explores this theory’s capacity to function as an ethical imperative in the morally nihilistic atmosphere of post­Holocaust Europe. In doing so, Beckett’s play implicates the viewer in a dramatization that is aligned with the axiological iteration of eternal recurrence that modern and contemporary scholars associate with Friedrich Nietzsche. Indeed, it is in this sense that Waiting for Godot is, as Beckett himself puts it, “a positive statement of a negative thing.”

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: continental philosophy; ethics; Badiou event; Holocaust; absurd theatre; metatheatre;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Adult and Community Education
    Item ID: 18499
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Matthew Fogarty
    Date Deposited: 13 May 2024 11:00
    Journal or Publication Title: Modern Drama
    Publisher: University of Toronto Press
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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