Introductions

‘The body is our general medium for having a world.’[1]

–          Maurice Merleau-Ponty

The epigraph statement, taken from Phenomenology of Perception, is particularly apt when looking at Samuel Beckett’s Film[2] – in it, the protagonist wishes not to be observed. Thus the actor portraying the lead must act against his training as the film prompts us to rethink our watching of all film. In fact, any direct observation the camera makes of characters in Film results in their faces contorting to an expression of fear. The film begins with an ‘all-seeing-eye’ that the main protagonist runs away from and wishes to keep his back turned to at all times. This wish to remain unseen, to be away from the eye, follows a school of French thought that explored a denigration of vision as the primary sensory faculty throughout the 20th Century.

Well explored in Martin Jay’s Downcast Eyes[3] this denigration of vision, and therefore elevation of the physical, is evident throughout Beckett’s works but I would argue it is especially evident in Film. Throughout, Film can be seen as an emphasizing of muscular, proprioceptive experience – phenomenologically haptic experience, then. Much description of this experience is rough and time-consuming conveying Beckett’s roughened – therefore deeply rooted in touching and moving – ontological textures. Through contemporary explorations of a phenomenology of ‘touch’ and ‘haptics’, I intend to evince the haptic phenomenology of Beckett’s Film.

Working retrospectively from contemporary cinema theory, haptic explorations, dis-and-re-embodiment theories, to philosophical touchstones while interweaving Beckett’s works, and their context – also within the context of his life and his experience – I hope not only to retrospectively evince phenomenology in Beckett’s works but also to discover Beckett’s own primary use of a philosophy of touch


[1] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. C. Smith, (1962). (London: Routledge Classics, 2002. p. 169)

[2] Samuel Beckett (Writer), Alan Schneider (Dir.), Film. (USA: Evergreen Productions, 1966)

[3] Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes. (USA: University of California Press, 1994)

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