Bare Life: Comedy, Trust, and Language in Wittgenstein and Beckett

Christopher C Robinson

in Wittgenstein and Political Theory

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780748639144
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652839 | DOI:
Bare Life: Comedy, Trust, and Language in Wittgenstein and Beckett

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This chapter is a Wittgensteinian reading of a play by Samuel Beckett, Catastrophe. Where the discussion emphasizes the horizontal travel through language by immanent theorists, this chapter illustrates this movement by stepping from politics and political theory into literary culture. It also examines the space for vertical movement within language. Wittgenstein suggests this thickness in his distinction between surface and depth grammars, and his thoughts on the relation of trust, conceived as irreducible, to language-games. The distance between surface and depth in language is miniscule: to get to the ‘bedrock’ of trust in language, one does not have to dig too deep. Through torture, exile, imprisonment and other forms of inhumanity illuminated in the techniques of concentration camps, humans are deprived of what makes them human. In Beckett's Catastrophe, trust is exposed and threatened. But there may be a redemptive moment in the end.

Keywords: Wittgensteinian reading; Samuel Beckett; Catastrophe; political theory; language movement; literary culture; language-games; inhumanity

Chapter.  8961 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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