“(HIATUS IN MS.)”: towards a TEI compliant typology of textual lacunae in Samuel Beckett’s manuscripts

Wout Dillen


Abstract: As is the case with so many first drafts, some of Beckett's manuscripts still contain gaps: zones in the text that are either left completely blank, or are otherwise indicated to be filled in at a later stage in the writing process. Such gaps are interesting milestones for any genetic critic, because they may indicate a hesitation on the author’s part during the writing process: a name not yet decided on, a word or phrase that needs fine-tuning, etc. In Beckett’s case, these gaps are especially significant, because they feature so prominently in his published works as well: from the startling “(Hiatus in MS.)” in his early novel Watt to the phrase “and here a word he could not catch” in his last prose text Stirrings Still, narrative pauses, interruptions, and false starts have undoubtedly become a leitmotif throughout Beckett’s oeuvre. Encoding Beckett’s own hiatuses for a digital edition of his manuscripts, however, poses a problem. While the TEI’s <gap> element may intuitively seem like the perfect match, the description of the <space> element is in fact more closely related to the textual feature we wish to encode. And although these gaps/spaces will invariably differ in appearance (a blank space; an indented string of characters; a symbol of some kind; etc.) and motivation (inadequacy; indecisiveness; etc.), the TEI does not yet allow either of these elements to be classified further through the @type attribute. Using the manuscripts of Beckett’s Malone meurt as a case study, this paper makes a case for the TEI’s <space> element to be added to the att.typed class (a feature request for which was approved while writing this paper), and makes a first attempt at a typology of Beckett's use of hiatuses in his manuscripts. 



Beckett. TEI. Manuscript

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