French and Francophone Studies | Research seminar – Samuel Beckett’s Textes pour rien: metaethics, self-parody, self-translation
French and Francophone Studies research seminar
Samuel Beckett’s Textes pour rien: metaethics, self-parody, self-translation
Anthony Cordingley (Robinson Fellow at the University of Sydney)
Samuel Beckett’s self-translation practice is well documented, though its metaethical dimensions have attracted surprisingly little commentary. This talk will focus on two key moments in Beckett’s career: firstly, in 1950 when at the most advanced stage of his translingual writing, before the experience of sustained self-translation forever altered his experience of “original” composition, he wrote “Texte 1”, the first of his short metafictions in Textes pour rien; and, secondly, nearly a decade later, when he composed in English “Text 1” after having spent many of the intervening years adapting his major works into his first tongue. I will home in on tropes of exophonic writing in the French version before drawing attention to their transformation in English through semantic and poetic variation, and the introduction of religious symbolism. This, I argue, generates a self-parody that nonetheless masks Beckett’s contemplation of his self-translating in terms of religious asceticism and of its potential to constitute a metaethics. I will consider psychoanalytic allegories of this process within “Texte 1/Text 1”, as well as Beckett’s attempt to disarm psychoanalytic readings of this flight from his mother tongue and return home. In making this argument, I draw on Beckett’s correspondence, including letters he wrote during his course of psychotherapy with Wilfred Bion as a young man in the 1930s, and his “Psychology Notes”, which date from his private study of psychology and psychoanalytic theory, recently accessible in the archives of Trinity College Dublin.
About the presenter
Anthony Cordingley is Robinson Fellow at the University of Sydney, on secondment from the Université Paris 8, France where he is Associate Professor in English and Translation. On the editorial board of Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui and an editor for the Beckett Digital Manuscripts Project, he is author of Samuel Beckett’s How It Is: Philosophy in Translation (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). His work in translation studies includes the edited volumes Self-translation: Brokering Originality in Hybrid Culture (Bloomsbury, 2013) and Collaborative Translation: from the Renaissance to the Digital Age (Bloomsbury, 2016). With a special interest in genetic approaches to translation, he has co-edited special journal issues of Linguistica Antverpiensia, “Towards a Genetics of Translation” (2015) and Meta: Translators’ Journal, “Translation Archives” (2020). He recently completed a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship project “Genetic Translation Studies” at KU Leuven’s Centre for Translation Studies, and his “Theoretical Challenges for a Genetics of Translation” recently appeared in Translation Studies.
For more information, contact: Dr Victoria Souliman (email@example.com)
Banner image: “Ping” Samuel Beckett by Père Ubu via Flickr (/michaelrogers). Cropped to fit banner dimensions. Used under CC BY-NC 2.0.
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