The Satanic Self in Chaucer, Milton, and Beckett

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Title: The Satanic Self in Chaucer, Milton, and Beckett
Author: Burnett, Jacob
Advisors: R. V. Young, Committee Chair
Charlotte Gross, Committee Member
M. Thomas Hester, Committee Member
Abstract: The Satanic self is the autonomous, linguistically constructed subject who cannot support itself but who rebels against any external support. According to Foucault, the autonomous subject should be reconsidered as a function of discourse. This anxiety over the autonomous and autonymous subject is not new, but has antecedents far back in literary history. Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale, The Parson's Tale, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Beckett's The Unnamable recapitulate the historical progress of the development and decline of the self-authoring subject, a progress of dislocation of significance from—in order—objects, language, and finally the subject itself. The first two writers show how to avert what Anthony Low calls the "disastrous fall into nihilistic subjectivity," while the third can present no such redemption. The withdrawl of meaning through profane kenosis is inextricably linked to the long, slow disappearance of God from Western European cultural consciousness. The rejection of God is the rejection of the traditional grounds of Western subjectivity.
Date: 2007-04-11
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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