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SpiralsThe Whirled Image in Twentieth-Century Literature and Art$
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Nico Israel

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153027

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153027.001.0001

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At the End of the Jetty

At the End of the Jetty

Beckett … Smithson. Recoil … Return

(p.161) Five At the End of the Jetty

Nico Israel

Columbia University Press

This chapter compares Beckett's novel, The Unnamable (L'Innomable [1947]), with Smithson's art project, Spiral Jetty—a title that encompasses the earth artwork (1969), film (1970), and essay (1972). The spiral, for Beckett and Smithson, becomes a sign of entropy or recoiling in a more fully fledged way than it had in Joyce and Duchamp. The entropic is not only a sign of the exhaustion of and with philosophical modernity and energetic progress in a general sense, but as a way to grapple with specific geopolitical moments: Beckett refers subtly but unmistakably to the bloodshed of the Second World War and the history of European colonialism, while Smithson refers to American “Manifest Destiny” and the napalm assaults on Vietnam. The inner and outer rings of Beckett's and Smithson's spirals become a way of expressing both an epistemological limit and a geographical border or map linking the near and the far.

Keywords:   Samuel Beckett, Robert Smithson, The Unnamable, Spiral Jetty, entropy, Second World War, Manifest Destiny, European colonialism, Vietnam

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