Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Jim Hamilton on Samuel Beckett


This is entry #23 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.

Philosopher: Jim Hamilton (Kansas State University)

Artwork: Not I (1973) by Samuel Beckett. First performed by Billie Whitelaw at the Royal Court Theatre, January 1973, directed by Anthony Page. [That attached video begins, and ends, with some unnecessary and egregious hagiography. And the performance omits the silent and mostly still figure barely visible downstage. Still, it is the best performance I have yet found online.]

100 words: The old woman – I think of her as an old woman – can barely speak and yet speaks rapidly and nervously, repeating and repeating a worried, worrisome, story of what she can and cannot tell. About what? Something that happened. Although it was not preceded by family warmth, spared that, nor consolations of a merciful God, spared that too. But something happened. And she cannot speak about it. But she cannot stop speaking. I think we have no reason to believe it is literally unspeakable. Nor metaphorically. I cannot tell it anymore than she. But I cannot stop thinking about it.

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