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Thursday, May 15, 2008
On the Terminal in Cinema
In his monograph on Samuel Beckett, A. Alvarez famously characterizes the author’s trilogy as “a terminal vision, a terminal style and, from the point of view of possible development, a work at least as aesthetically terminal as [James Joyce’s] Finnegan’s Wake”. As used by Alvarez, the term denotes both an artistic vision thoroughly steeped in mortality, an “undeviating withdrawal from [...] the exterior world”, and a stylistic approach that represents an end in itself, where no further explorations are possible in a given direction. Just as Joyce’s nocturnal language comprised of every conceivable extant language and a slew of neologisms is not an approach that can be duplicated or an example that can be built upon, the increasingly deconstructed language employed by Beckett in his trilogy, comprised of an endless, repetitive stream of words stripped of grammar, narrative thrust and (largely) meaning, is an approach that represents the termination of another line of æsthetic inquiry. What remains at the end of Beckett is a pure stream of language.