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Watt Is Not a Well-Wrought Pot

Byron, Mark

Journal of Beckett Studies volume 24 issue 1 page 32 -- Edinburgh University Press

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  • Title:
    Watt Is Not a Well-Wrought Pot
  • Author: Byron, Mark;
    Ackerley, Chris
  • Found In: Journal of Beckett Studies volume 24 issue 1 page 32
  • Rights: LegalDeposit; Reading Room Access
  • Publication Details: Edinburgh University Press
  • Abstract: <x xml:space="preserve">Abstract</x>

    Beckett's 1953 novel Watt is justifiably known as the ‘white whale’ of Beckett Studies. Its wartime composition history in conditions of compound displacement, from the first tentative notes in 1941 to the first attempts at publication in 1945, traces out a process of manuscript revision, recirculation, fragmentation and recombination: a process in which art and life echoed each other's estrangements. The complicated journey into print bore its own pitfalls, where textual error combined with evidence of partial narrative excisions, serial non sequiturs, and a post-narrative midden of fragments both insinuated within and separated from the story of Watt and his master. This essay engages in a close examination of a selected range of variant types between published editions and between published text and manuscript (and partial typescript). There is no golden key, but a pattern emerges whereby an ambivalent alternation between presence and absence of textual material indicates the novel and its documents to be a kind of work-genesis. Watt's perplexing struggle with knowing and being reflects and informs the state of the novel's constituent materials. His tussle with the faculties of perception, as well as the improbable utterance of his strange quest, enjoins the reader to rethink the narrative and textual categories upon which a hermeneutics might be assayed. The material conditions of the novel's composition, transmission and post-publication career are well known. But the signal correspondence between the text's material vicissitudes, its thematic burden, and its hermeneutic challenges are positively striking. They imply a textual assemblage demanding a most supple editorial technique: the presence and absence, the ones and zeros structuring the digital scholarly edition.


  • Identifier: Journal ISSN: 1759-7811
  • Publication Date: 2015-04-01
  • Physical Description: Electronic

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