A Tongue Not Mine: Beckett and Translation

ISBN : 9780199608256

Sinead Mooney
288 Pages
149 x 219 mm
Pub date
May 2011
Oxford English Monographs
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A Tongue Not Mine examines the significance of bilingualism, translation, and self-translation in the work of Samuel Beckett. After a mid-career adoption of French as a language of composition, Beckett continued to write in his native English as well as French, and to translate his work systematically, though often unfaithfully, between the two. This study focuses on how Beckett's self-translation, rather than being an ancillary, essentially practical task of linguistic transfer, emerges as an integral component of his work's exploration of uncertainty and exile, and its critique of the myth of identity. His apprenticeship in literary translation of the work of others, his decision to write in a non-native language, and that decision's corollary of continual self-translation, emerge as central to the privileging of narrative gaps and disunities, and the struggle with language in his work. By demonstrating how the recurrent tropes of Beckett's mature writing - a profound linguistic scepticism; nomadic, evanescent, multiple subjects; the erosion of proper names and settings - emerge from the fact that he was constantly translating, both his own and others' work, throughout his career, Sinead Mooney considers the work of this important Irish modernist from a neglected perspective. Bilingualism emerges as a generative force fundamental to Beckett's aesthetics of dislocation, in which identity and language are disarticulated. Informed by translation studies, analyses of literary bilingualism, and post-colonial theory, this study reconsiders the relationship between translation, modernism, and twentieth-century Irish literature.


Preface: 'Neither a native nor a foreign accent': Beckett in French and English
1. Paying Lipservice: Beckett, translation and the 1930s
2. 'these long shifting thresholds': Beckett's turn to French
3. Narration, nation, dissemination
the trilogy translated
4. Foreign Bodies: translation at play in Beckett's theatre
5. Atropos and Echo: Beckett's 'worsening' self-translation and the discourse of death

About the author: 

Sinead Mooney is a graduate of University College Cork and the University of Oxford. She is the author of Samuel Beckett (Northcote House, 2006) and the co-editor of Edna O'Brien: New Critical Perspectives (Carysfort, 2006), and has published widely on Beckett and Irish women's writing. She is a lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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