Fatema: The Literature of Silence

Glicksberg, Charles I. “The Literature of Silence.” The Centennial Review 14.2 (Spring 1970): 166-176. Jstor. 9 June 2016. 

Main Argument: The meaning of a Literature of Silence that emerged in modernism as an answer to the author’s nihilist urge to question the function of writing itself.

Sub Arguments:

  • Literature of Silence is a paradox in itself triggered by a realization of the futility of literature thus creating anti-literature
  • It is born out of a belief in the futility of language itself and a rejection of God or Logos (language) being the center of the universe,
  • Through the rhetoric of futility, the literature of silence leads to the liquidation of literature.
  • Giving examples of works by Sartre and Heidegger, the writer lists the features of such a literature.
  • Giving the example of Samuel Beckett’s Unnameable, the writer exposes the lack of meaning in writing through projecting anonymity of the voice that speaks.
  • The writer compares Hemingway’s hero to Beckett’s anti-hero, while one’s wounds are covered with a sense of honor, the other is wounded all over with only questions and no answers to his disposal.
  • The writer discusses the foggy confusion of space and a brooding futility in Beckett’s monologues.
  • Further discussing the elements in Beckett’s novel, the writer concludes the formula that words betray and any effort to express is in vain.
  • He then looks at the use of the absurd by various writers like Camus, who have nothing to say but still have an urge to say something.

Conclusion: The article is an overview in understanding the elements of what can be called the Literature of Silence in view of popular works by writers like Samuel Beckett and Camus. It explains the need for such a literature and how one can understand it from a philosophical point of view.


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