I Am a Process with No Subject

Philip Beitchman

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Although in theory deconstruction has pronounced dead the idea of literature as a special category, in practice is has fostered what might be called a literature of a library of deconstruction. In exploring works by seven twentieth-century writers – Tzara, Beckett, Leiris, Blanchot, Joyce, Sollers, and Des Forets – Beitchman focuses on the shared qualities that make them central texts in the literature of deconstruction and in so doing reveals the main tensions that form our postmodernist sensibility.

In commentaries that participate in and extend the method and spirit of the particular works under discussion, Beitchman traces the radical effects in literature of these writers’ taking romanticism and symbolism one, two, ten, a hundred steps further: writer and reader, creator and critic, dissolve and merge; character and plot become problematic, confusing; the declarative is usurped by the interrogative; all goal, all finality are vanquished by the uncertain, the circular, and the incomplete. Ultimately, art itself is toppled from its pedestal of privilege and exclusive status.

Whether showing how Beckett empties language of its referential function and prevents its acquiring a mystical one, or tracing in Blanchot and others the themes of nomadism and vagrancy, or exploring how any structure Joyce erects becomes swamped in a seat of incessant qualification and exception, Beitchman explores the texts’ ramifications with sympathy and a wide range of reference. Framing his seven essays are a substantial introduction and an eloquent conclusion, in which he focuses on the themes of madness, theater, and text and thereby sums up his study while underscoring the challenges posed by the literature of deconstruction.

Enormously well informed and compellingly written, I Am a Process with No Subject subtly balances the demands of a history of ideas with those of a literary history to reveal the literature of deconstruction as the characteristic and perhaps the inevitable form of literary expression in the twentieth century.

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