Samuel Beckett, the Wordless Song and the Pitfalls of Memorialisation

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Many songs unsung, unheard or misheard appear in Beckett's oeuvre, from Mr Knott's monotonous and irksome singing in Watt to the ballads with which Miss McGlome greets dusk in Krapp's Last Tape. Contrary to such depictions of melody, which function as mere narrative digressions, the fragmentary songs which drift in and out of Beckett's post-war novellas crystallise particular anxieties about post-Romantic essentialisations of memory and culture, and gain new currency when considered against the history of European musical nationalisms. This article brings to light Beckett's long-standing reflection upon the elevated literary status of the folk song, folklore and translation, and, in so doing, reconfigures Beckett's post-war novellas in relation to post-Enlightenment debates about folklore in the contexts of German Romanticism and the Irish Literary Revival.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-205
Number of pages20
JournalIrish Studies Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

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