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dc.contributor.advisorAckerley, Chris
dc.contributor.advisorMarshall, Simone
dc.contributor.authorPhillips, Holly Louise
dc.identifier.citationPhillips, H. L. (2016). Samuel Beckett and the Emergence of the Nominalist Ethic (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractIn this thesis, I argue that Samuel Beckett’s 1932 encounter with late-medieval Nominalism in Wilhelm Windelband’s History of Philosophy (1901) was a decisive factor in the emergence of his mature aesthetic. Beckett’s early works exhibit chaotic impulse to particularity that only crystallised after Beckett’s systematic reading of Windelband’s History. After this point, I argue that a “nominalist ethic” emerged as a distinguishing factor in Beckett’s aesthetic. The nominalist ethic came to shape Beckett’s embrace of humility as an epistemological, aesthetic, and personal tenet. Beckett was driven to write by an acute sense of the “obligation to express,” yet he was simultaneously convinced that authentic expression was impossible. The nominalist ethic became his way of using a grossly inadequate language to fulfil that obligation, without attempting to mask the failure of expression in the transcendental rhetoric of Realism. It was a means of becoming “foreign” to the forces of Realism that guarantee the Christian-Platonic worldview; a way of becoming more like Arnold Geulincx’s humble “spectator of the machine”: impotent and will-less. This thesis begins by documenting the first stirrings of that ethic in Beckett’s early poem, Whoroscope (1930), and in a selection of early prose works: Dream of Fair to middling Women (1932), and More Pricks Than Kicks (1934). Later chapters look to Beckett’s archive to trace his transformation of this arcane philosophical debate into a workable literary aesthetic. The thesis closes by considering the implications of the Nominalist ethic in Beckett’s mature writing.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
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dc.subjectSamuel Beckett
dc.subjectWilhelm Windelband
dc.subjectWilliam of Occam
dc.titleSamuel Beckett and the Emergence of the Nominalist Ethic
dc.language.rfc3066en and Linguistics of Philosophy of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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