Power, Politics, and Polis in Beckett's What Where

Tubridy, Derval. 2012. Power, Politics, and Polis in Beckett's What Where. In: James Carney; Leonard Madden; Michael O'Sullivan and Karl White, eds. Beckett Re-membered: After the Centenary. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, pp. 166-179. ISBN 978-1-4438-3500-8 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Focusing on Beckett’s 1983 play What Where, the paper explores the instability of subjectivity in a performance in which voice and body are in conflict. The paper argues that Beckett interrogates the possibility of subjectivity through a conflict between voice and body characterised by substitution and elimination. Informed by Chantal Mouffe’s concept of agonistic democracy, the paper suggests that What Where performs the stuggle towards, yet the impossibility of achieving, the kind of full subjectivity on which conceptions of community and democracy are based. Drawing on Damien O’Donnell’s 2000 film production of What Where, the paper shows how Beckett’s play provides an extraordinarily succinct and intense demonstration of the interplay between power, politics and polis.

Item Type:

Book Section


Samuel Beckett, theatre, short plays, What Where, Chantal Mouffe, democracy, torture, power, Elaine Scarry,

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


1 January 2012Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Jan 2018 09:36

Last Modified:

05 Jan 2018 09:36



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