BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    (Un)Interrupted sounds: Samuel Beckett’s patients and the cacophonous clinical encounter

    Cushing-Harries, Laura (2020) (Un)Interrupted sounds: Samuel Beckett’s patients and the cacophonous clinical encounter. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    LauraCushing-Harries_Thesis_Final_2020 (1).pdf - Full Version

    Download (2MB) | Preview


    This thesis examines speaking, listening and power in the contemporary clinic through a medicalised reading of the late modernist Samuel Beckett’s oeuvre. Where narrative-based medical practises have hitherto offered clinicians a framework by which to offer better care to their patients—helping doctors to help patients tell their stories, and tell them better—I argue that Beckett’s writing can be used to question the restorative capabilities of narrative, by characterising language as troublesome. Beckett’s works function as a translational tool to stage, narrate and record the doctor and patient interaction. I align Beckett’s formal choices with the formal aspects of the clinic and the dynamics forged between doctors and patients within these contexts. I have divided this thesis into two halves. The first is devoted to narrating illness and the second to listening to it. In the first half, Beckett’s theatre and The Unnamable (1958) are used to explore the performativity of clinical spaces that cultivate and curate patient identity. Examining pathographical literature, chapters one and two argue that Beckett’s works can be used to understand how patienthood is represented and challenge binary notions of health and illness. In the second half, I examine listening within the clinic through Beckett’s radio drama for the BBC, his use of audio technologies, and later theatre works. How does the clinician listen (or not listen) to the suffering subject and how has clinical discourse inhibited patients from listening to themselves? By analysing the global contemporary patient advocacy group the Hearing Voices Network, which offers alternative models of patient experience, I argue that Beckett’s works similarly provide an opportunity to stage and narrate illness differently. Utilising a critical medical humanities framework, this thesis entangles speakers and listeners within the clinic through a Beckettian aesthetic that defies traditional clinical discourse and methodologies of patient care.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2022 13:40
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:27


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item