ABSTRACT

We report the first analysis of Samuel Beckett's prose writings using stylometry, or the quantitative study of writing style, focusing on grammatical function words, a linguistic category that has seldom been studied before in Beckett studies. To these function words, we apply methods from computational stylometry and model the stylistic evolution in Beckett's oeuvre. Our analyses reveal a number of discoveries that shed new light on existing periodizations in the secondary literature, which commonly distinguish an “early,” “middle,” and “late” period in Beckett's oeuvre. We analyze Beckett's prose writings in both English and French, demonstrating notable symmetries and asymmetries between both languages. The analyses nuance the traditional three-part periodization as they show the possibility of stylistic relapses (disturbing the linearity of most periodizations) as well as different turning points depending on the language of the corpus, suggesting that Beckett's English oeuvre is not identical to his French oeuvre in terms of patterns of stylistic development.

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