‘A tangle of tatters’
Ghosts and the busy nothing in Footfalls
in Beckett and nothing

The approach to nothing that is to be produced in performance operates not by the simple removal of things but by their interaction, their 'busy life', even by their addition. This chapter explores these twin headings, of schematic purity that may seem to point towards philosophy, and the clutter of incident and speech that is conventionally the province of literature, and ultimately explains how the two are related in Samuel Beckett's Footfalls. Ruby Cohn refers to the plays of the 1970s as the 'post-death plays'. The text of Footfalls seems to authorise this identification by introducing a thoroughly anecdotal ghost in May's little tale of her 'semblance' Amy. For, as in the example of 'lacrosse', a poise between the glamour of the transcendental, and the derisory materiality of rags and wicker rackets, is what Footfalls cultivates.

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Beckett and nothing

Trying to understand Beckett

Editor: Daniela Caselli
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