Title

Samuel Beckett’s All that Fall and Dante’s Purgatorio

Subject Area

Comparative Literature

Abstract

Samuel Beckett wrote the one-act radio play All that Fall for the BBC Third Programme in 1956 at a critical moment in his writing career. Having spent the previous ten years composing new works almost exclusively in French, this play marks his enthusiastic return to his mother tongue. It is also his first foray into the relatively new medium of radio drama. This multifaceted work has been viewed alternatively as a tragicomedy, a whodunit thriller, and a musical composition.

This paper identifies a new source for the play in the final cantos of the Purgatorio. The author’s regularly revisited theme of locomotion (crawling, trudging, shuffling, walking, riding, driving, sailing) is as well-known as his devotion to Dante. Here the two come together in a narrative structure provided by Dante and illuminated by the 19th century German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s famous dictum, “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” This paper carefully traces the overt references to the Divine Comedy and the underlying parallel structure evident in the play in an attempt to better understand its remarkable symmetry and textual economy.

Brief Bio Note

Dr. Julien Carriere is lecturer of French at Indiana University Southeast. He teaches French language and literature and Italian language. His research focuses on Samuel Beckett’s bilingualism and interest in Dante. His article, “Beckett’s Happy Days and Dante’s Inferno, Canto 10” appears in the current issue of the bilingual journal, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui. He presented the paper, “Literary Cartography: Mapping Ireland’s Place in the Beckett Country” at the Beckett and the State of Ireland Conference at University College Dublin, in 2012. His new translation of Machiavelli’s The Golden Ass is under review by a publisher.

Keywords

Beckett, Dante, Drama, Radio, Purgatory, Joyce, Haeckel, Locomotion

Location

Room 211

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-27-2015 3:00 PM

End Date

3-27-2015 4:15 PM

Embargo

5-23-2017

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Mar 27th, 3:00 PM Mar 27th, 4:15 PM

Samuel Beckett’s All that Fall and Dante’s Purgatorio

Room 211

Samuel Beckett wrote the one-act radio play All that Fall for the BBC Third Programme in 1956 at a critical moment in his writing career. Having spent the previous ten years composing new works almost exclusively in French, this play marks his enthusiastic return to his mother tongue. It is also his first foray into the relatively new medium of radio drama. This multifaceted work has been viewed alternatively as a tragicomedy, a whodunit thriller, and a musical composition.

This paper identifies a new source for the play in the final cantos of the Purgatorio. The author’s regularly revisited theme of locomotion (crawling, trudging, shuffling, walking, riding, driving, sailing) is as well-known as his devotion to Dante. Here the two come together in a narrative structure provided by Dante and illuminated by the 19th century German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s famous dictum, “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” This paper carefully traces the overt references to the Divine Comedy and the underlying parallel structure evident in the play in an attempt to better understand its remarkable symmetry and textual economy.