“You look behind you as you could not then”: Embodied Cognition and Linguistic Confusion in Beckett’s “Heard in the Dark I”

Charlotta Palmstierna Einarsson


Samuel Beckett’s short story “Heard in the Dark I” points to the significance of the body for the process of reshaping experience and seeing the world afresh. Moreover, the situation that unfolds in the narrative constitutes a breaking with the habitual flow of things and introduces a path to something beyond linguistic meaning. Through the medium of text, the reader will encounter the movements described as if they were performed. That is to say, reading the meticulous descriptions of physical movements in the text forces the reader to engage with, and imaginatively perform, the very motions described. In so doing, Beckett prompts his reader to break with the habitual appropriation of language as a means to try to make “sense” of the text, turning our attention instead towards the body. By heightening the reader’s attention to the body, Beckett manages to return us to the particularity of presentation, and in this sense his texts are wake-up calls to perception.


Beckett; phenomenology; body; movements; meaning; experience; memory; imagination; habit

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