Journal Article

The Review of English Studies Prize Essay

John Bolin

in The Review of English Studies

Volume 60, issue 246, pages 515-537
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0034-6551
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1471-6968 | DOI:

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  • Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature)
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Readers have long recognised the importance of Joyce and Proust on Beckett's artistic theory and practise. Yet despite the impressive body of criticism documenting such influences, Beckett's significant debts to one of his greatest early masters, André Gide, have gone virtually unnoticed. The first part of this essay uses archival materials to reconstruct Beckett's theory of the modern novel at a crucial point in 1930, immediately following his Proust monograph and preceding his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, by only months. It is shown that Beckett's novelistic theory at this time shifted away from his thinking in Proust toward an emphasis on divided subjectivity (as articulated in Gide's Dostoievsky), fragmented form, and a ‘new structure’ of the novel in Les Faux-Monnayeurs. An examination of Dream's debts to Gide follows, and a new reading of the novel emerges. It is argued that in Dream Beckett deployed a counter-novelistic theory inspired by Gide and his Dostoevsky to parody and subvert what Beckett termed the ‘European’ tradition.

Journal Article.  11390 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature) ; Literary Studies (American) ; Literary Studies (British and Irish)