Unreal Nature

December 25, 2015

The Kinds of Wings

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… we are told only that the wings are spread, not that they assist in any kind of elevation …

This is from Beckett, Modernism and the Material Imagination by Steven Connor (2014):

… For Beckett, imagination is not a spontaneously indwelling and upwelling power, but a strenuous and exhausting labor that comes close to the ideas of staging, seeing through or putting into practice. ‘A voice comes to one in the dark, Imagine’ begins Company, inaugurating the stern imperative maintained through the text of making possibility actual, or rendering things finite.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Although often credited in the Romantic tradition as the power that promises transcendence of the merely finite world, Beckett’s imagination is typically described as defective and itself in need of being imagined. This task is strangely insistent. Even when imagination seems to have expired altogether, it represents just another task of imagining: ‘Imagination Dead Imagine,’ an imagination that is completely dead and done for, just imagine what that could be like. ‘Imagination at wit’s end spreads its sad wings,’ we read in Ill Seen Ill Said.

[line break added] Knowing that the imagination in question is an unusually, even grotesquely, reason-ridden affair may help to explain how imagination, traditionally the antagonist or enlarger of wit, might be said to be at its own wit’s end, but this does not provide much help in understanding the kinds of wings it might seek to rise on. Indeed, we are told only that the wings are spread, not that they assist in any kind of elevation — which could well be the source of their sadness.

[line break added] And, of course, imagination can have or take wing only by an act of imagining, as it has here in fact in the hobbled form of a rather fatigued and lumbering cliché, even if it is the conspicuous leadenness of the phrase which deploys it that gives it its sardonic lift. The imagination in Beckett’s work is always a material imagination, always on the alert against its own tendency to levitate or refine itself out of existence, while Beckett is himself strongly attuned to the gaseous correlates of the mental faculties.

… I aim through these readings of the different forms the material imagination takes in Beckett’s work — the athletic imagination of effort, the imagination of slowness and speed, the imagination of the body grown literally sick of itself and the imagination of and through the technical and material apparatus of hearing and speaking — to intimate an alternative state or strain of the modern, which stresses its commitment to a kind of being in the world that must nevertheless eschew any sense of that world’s, or that being’s, simple inherence.

-Julie

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