Degree Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Comparative Literature

Advisor(s)

Claire Solomon

Committee Member(s)

Jed Deppman
Benjamin Lee

Keywords

Heraclitus, Julio Cortazar, Cortazar, Rayuela, Hopscotch, Samuel Beckett, Beckett, Fin de Partie, Endgame, Carole Maso, Maso, AVA, Postmodernism, Ancient Greek philosophy, Poststructuralism, Deconstruction, Cixous, Derrida, Deleuze, Kahn, TM Robinson

Abstract

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, known for his theory of "constant flux," may be one of the most misunderstood and misquoted thinkers of Western philosophy. The way that the protagonist of Julio Cortazar’s Rayuela misreads Heraclitus serves as one example of this phenomenon wherein poorly-conceived postmodern inquiries that seek to weaken the idea of a Truth lead to a nihilistic apathy. Horacio Oliveira misunderstands Heraclitus’ doctrine of constant flux and uses this misreading to “logically” justify his sexist and elitist behavior towards others. This phenomenon crops up again in Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Fin de Partie through Hamm, a patriarch that no longer sees any point in trying because the world as he knows it is disintegrating. We can use Heraclitus as a central theoretical point for parsing through what exactly goes wrong with the ethical decisions of these characters. Carole Maso’s AVA serves as a counterexample to Rayuela and Fin de Partie, for the novel revolves around similar theoretical questions but provides us with a more properly “Heraclitean” approach for how to confront a world without fixed meaning. Studying these failures and successes supply us with examples of how Postmodern thought can be used for harm or for good. A Heraclitean reading of these texts shows us how, properly understood, Postmodernism moves not only towards deconstructing structuralized systems of violence and marginalization, but also towards building something out of the rubble.

Share

COinS