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“I Switch Off”

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Beckett, Bion, and Thinking in Torturous Times

image of Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd'hui

This essay analyses Beckett’s What Where and its staging of torture by contextualising it within postwar psychological and psychoanalytic attempts to make sense of social and political violence. Placing What Where in dialogue with the Milgram experiment and Wilfred Bion’s work on ‘splitting’ as a switching off of ‘thinking,’ the essay explores how Beckett uses a reflexive aesthetic authoritarianism to represent and enact “the works,” while constructing a temporal form within which the fragile and difficult work of thinking might yet be contained.

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor of Medicine and English Literature, English, University of Exeter


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