Outselves: Beckett, Bion and Beyond

Luke Alexander Thurston, Jean-Michel Rabate (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article explores Beckett's encounter with psychoanalysis, which it links to the properly "modernist" dimension of his work, its creative resistance to historicist interpretation. It first engages with biographical accounts of Beckett-and-psychoanalysis, emphasizing the problem posed by the concept of "transference" for an empiricist historiography and pausing over Beckett's remark that his analysis involved "intrauterine memories." The article then posits a triangular structure linking Beckett's analysis with Bion to his relations with James Joyce and Lucia Joyce, a structure in which Jung occupied a position of false mastery. The Beckettian phrases "never been properly born" and être manqué are shown to derive from this triangle, and are drawn into a phonemic cluster, centred on a mark of linguistic and ontological failure associated with Beckett's mother, which is traced throughout his work. The article addresses Beckett's movement between languages, his reflection on translation and his sense of the relation between singular utterance and collective identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-143
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2009


  • psychoanalysis
  • encounter
  • biography
  • identification
  • translation


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