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The Sage Under the Bo: Darwinism and Buddhism in Samuel Beckett's How It Is.

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Samuel Beckett’s 1964 novel How It Is has usually been understood as a critique of Christian theodicy, as found in the Bible and epic poetry such as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Commedia. This paper argues that Beckett’s target is much broader: How It Is also tackles Darwinian evolution, and the mechanics of rebirth and salvation found in Indian religions. I show how Beckett was indebted to A Visit to Ceylon, a travel memoir by the German naturalist Ernst Haeckel, and propose understanding How It Is as Beckett’s sustained engagement with the question raised by Buddhist ethics.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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