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Samuel Beckett, Fritz Mauthner, and the Limits of Language

Linda Ben-Zvi
PMLA
Vol. 95, No. 2 (Mar., 1980), pp. 183-200
DOI: 10.2307/462014
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462014
Page Count: 18
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Samuel Beckett, Fritz Mauthner, and the Limits of Language
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Abstract

Samuel Beckett, early in his career and on James Joyce's advice, read Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache 'Contributions toward a Critique of Language,' the three-volume, 2,200-page work written between 1903 and 1923 by the Austrian philosopher of language Fritz Mauthner. Significantly influenced by the work, Beckett gave literary shape to several of Mauthner's ideas: the correlation between thinking and speaking; the denial of any certainties outside language, even certainty about the existence of self; and the impossibility of overcoming the limits of language. Both authors place language at the center of their works, subsume all knowledge under it, and then systematically deny its basic efficacy, thus using language to indict itself.

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