Agency after the Subject: Beckett with Merleau-Ponty

Ruben Borg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Beckett and Embodiment, Amanda Dennis argues for an ecological rethinking of the concept of agency in Beckett, offering a powerful conceptual framework by which to reorganize poststructuralist, posthumanist and new materialist concerns. The book’s central claim is that in his life-long engagement with embodiment Beckett invites us to disarticulate the concept of agency from intentionality and to redistribute it onto a space shaped by what Merleau-Ponty calls the body-subject. Beckett’s prose reimagines agency as such a spatial phenomenon—irreducible to individual will and untethered from old mind-matter dichotomies. In developing this idea, Dennis reinvigorates the debate on agency in contemporary criticism by shifting the focus from questions of will, desire, and intention to figures of embodiment and lived space.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)166-170
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Trustees of Indiana University.


  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty
  • Samuel Beckett
  • agency
  • embodiment


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