The interruption of writing in Molloy: Sunday visits from Porlock

Yael Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Samuel Beckett´s poetics offers a paradoxical fusion of the compulsion to write and an inability to do so. Such a slippage from inspiration to expiration is in many ways definitive of twentieth-century thought on writing and subjectivity. Fraught with an obsessive preoccupation with the obligation to write, Molloy houses a crew of agents whose sole purpose is to impress this obligation upon two rather unwilling protagonists. This paper argues that the novel’s self-reflexive preoccupation with writing is symptomatic of a late modernist suspicion of discrete and independent authorship. In an attempt to tease out the fluid conceptualizations of writing and subjectivity as they emerge in the text, these figures of imposition are read alongside Coleridge’s preface to “Kubla Khan,” a literary antecedent that haunts the novel. The paper suggests that the evolution from a Romantic to a Modernist conceptualization of inspiration hinges on the figure of interruption. If the anxiety that riddles Coleridge´s preface is brought on by the inevitable cessation of writing as epitomized in the “person from Porlock,” Molloy demonstrates that writing is interruption; it is a doing and undoing of the subject within the endlessly circulating language of a poststructuralist intertext. Beckett´s reworking of Coleridge´s anecdote unfolds as a transgressive and generative exploration of subjectivity that is inseparable from the novel´s thematization of writing: the subject is both agent and receptacle of the writing that generates him. Turning to the work of Maurice Blanchot and Gilles Deleuze, the paper concludes by considering a writing that exceeds subjectivity and leads beyond dialectics, beyond ontology.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)255-273
Number of pages19
JournalPartial Answers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2016


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