Wittgenstein’s Language and Beckett : the Limits of Language and the Absurd

  • Marialena Avgerinou University of Dundee
Keywords: Wittgenstein, Beckett, language, meaning, absurd, art.


This paper provides a parallel linguistic and conceptual reading of Wittgenstein’s and Beckett’s works. More specifically, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the Philosophical Investigations are looked at in relation to the absurd plays Not I and Waiting for Godot, respectively. The limits of language as described in the Tractatus are part of the verbally and conceptually asphyxiating world brought on stage by Beckett in the monologue Not I, while the transition to ‘language games’ of the Philosophical Investigations can be identified in parts of Waiting for Godot. The suggested conclusion is that Wittgenstein’s expression of the ineffable, the problematic use of language and (its) meaning can be and have been expressed in a form of art, while the meanings of Wittgenstein’s writings are in harmony with their stylistic form, his concept of ‘showing’ further illustrating this idea.

Keywords: Wittgenstein, Beckett, language, meaning, absurd, art


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Images retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4LDwfKxr-M and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ culture/theatre/theatre-features/9780077/When-Beckett-wrote-Waiting-for-Godot-he-really-didnt-know-a- lot-about-theatre.html (viewed 13 April 2017)