“Thinking God as Language” in Beckett’s Endgame
by Florence Sunnen
“The God without being and, arguably, his favorite place – language – are interdependent, and neither can be thought without the other. Thus, God cannot be thought outside language. To this extent, negative theology addresses language and the fact that language cannot point outside itself. In other words, negative theology is a rhetorical practice that addresses its own “rhetoricity.” I suggest that Beckett’s gesture toward it is prompted by the realization that all we can say about God are his effects in language, and that God is, strictly speaking, “nothing,” but a “nothing” that “happens,” that has the status of an “event.” This was “(w)hat distressed Watt”: that “nothing had happened, with the utmost formal distinctness, and that it continued to happen, in his mind.” Thought about God, both in its positive and negative modus, originates in and through language. This is the questionable origin of God, the reason for Hamm to call him a “bastard”: God is the consequence of the way our language is. And our language is such that “any expression of an abstract idea can only be by analogy” – to an expression denoting something particular and tangible. Only by an analogy that obliterates the tangible, “primitive” referents does a new, universal, and abstract concept enter language.”
Asja Szafraniec – Beckett, Derrida, and the Event of Literature.