Beckett, Dante and the Archive

  • Daniela Caselli University of Manchester
Parole chiave: beckett archive genetic criticism dante


This paper looks at some key moments in the Beckett oeuvre in which Dante appears. Traversing published and unpublished texts, the paper shows how initially Dante is a modernist auctoritas; later, we encounter the promise of keeping Dante ‘out of sight’; we are told of Belacqua’s foolish bequeathing of copies of the Comedy; and we witness lavish investments in Dantean loci communes giving very meagre literary returns. Dante, I contend, is a very good way to think of the relation between waste and function in Beckett: the examples provided in this study demonstrate the importance of the ambiguous relation between what is claimed to have been discarded, lost, or given away in a moment of folly and what is being made to work. The overall argument is that Dante is not a source in its explicative sense, but is instead part of the Beckett archive: on the one hand we have, in reality and in fiction, a number of Divine Comedies on the shelves of Beckett’s Library; on the other, Dante is part of the potentially infinite layers, as described in Malone Dies, which constitute the very language of the Beckett œuvre.


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