Beckett’s prose, drama, correspondence and working notes contain numerous references to processes that pertain to unconscious, involuntary bodily functionality and materiality. In this respect, the body’s viscera and their processes cannot properly be said to belong to the subject, and yet everything over which we have agential control is premised on these deeper vegetative or physiological processes; thought and feeling, as Molloy puts it, ‘dance their sabbath’ in the ‘caverns’ of the body. If the conception of the ‘human’ is premised on rationality, then the viscera are non-human, object-like. Beckett’s anti-rationalist emphasis on affective, visceral experience in How It Is (along with the novel’s veiled allusions to Pavlov’s conditioning and Watson’s behaviourism) operates in tension with the more elevated intertextual references that signpost the humanist tradition.
- How it is