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The Dialectic of Panic and Anxiety in Beckett’s “First Love”

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image of Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd'hui

This article examines Beckett’s representation of anxiety and panic in “First Love” (1946). It considers Beckett’s own experience of panic attacks and identifies these symptoms as informing the representation of panic in the text. It reads “First Love” via Beckett’s psychotherapy (and the study he undertook in conjunction with it) and presents the text’s allusion to Otto Rank’s The Trauma of Birth as Beckett’s attempt to understand his panic. It then addresses the anxiety of the text, and argues for this anxiety as an objective element, separate from Beckett’s own psychological phenomena. Employing H. Porter Abbott’s conception of the ‘autographical’ nature of Beckett’s post-World War Two work, it reads “First Love” as focused on the anxiety generated by the perception of nothingness, and identifies the story’s theory of anxiety.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer, Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University, Australia


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