Vizenor and Beckett: Postmodern Identifications

  • Paul Stewart
Keywords: Samuel Beckett, Postmodern, Postcolonial, Theory


Through the use of an epigraph from The Unnamable and repeated echoes in Dead Voices, Vizenor established a relation to Beckett’s work. This paper traces the influence of Beckett in Vizenor and questions how Vizenor reads Beckett, particularly in political and postcolonial terms. Rather than the prevailing view that Beckett is an  apolitical and ahistorical writer, the relation with Vizenor hinges on a postmodern and postcolonial awareness of the dangers of imposed and restrictive identities. This awareness finds expression in both authors as both an aesthetic and political concern. It is argued that both authors seek to undo all forms of rigid identity within the works in an attempt to maintain a fluidity which might inform attempts at continuance and resistance. However, as can be seen in the wanaki game of Dead Voices, Vizenor’s sense of fluid identity is implicated in a communal “we”, whereas Beckett’s solitary voice in The Unnamable eschews any form of community, thus leading one to question the efficacy of Vizenor’s position. Nevertheless, the paper argues that Vizenor’s deployment of Beckett reveals that both authors adopt a committed political stance at the most fundamental aesthetic levels of the novel form.

Author Biography

Paul Stewart


Dept of Languages and Literature

How to Cite
Stewart, P. (2015). Vizenor and Beckett: Postmodern Identifications. Transmotion, 1(1), 48. Retrieved from