No direction home: Molloy, travelogue, and nomadic modernism

Paul Sheehan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The dialectic of movement and rest can be seen at work throughout Beckett's oeuvre, but it is particularly evident in the Trilogy. Rather than treat the trio of novels as a work-in-regress, however - from the two protagonists’ wanderings in Molloy to the tales of confinement and inertia in the sequels - this article shows how the motion / stasis pair is brought together in Molloy. On the one hand, there are generic traces here of ‘travel writing’, given that Molloy and Moran are travellers who (as narrators) record their peregrinations; on the other, Molloy illuminates these traces via Deleuze and Guattari's elucidation of nomadism, a theoretical rationale that can help us to understand what governs the movements of Molloy and Moran throughout the novel. I argue that Beckett, as the most celebrated exemplar of late modernism, provides a pathway whereby first-wave modernism in the interwar period is transformed into continental theory in the decades after the war. Although versions of this modernism-into-theory hypothesis have been posited since at least the 1980s, none of them has attempted to ascertain the specific nexus or juncture whereby modernist writing is transfigured into theoretical reflection. This article proposes that Molloy be read as a potential site for such a rearticulation - for demonstrating how the alienated modernist loner of so much fiction and poetry earlier in the century can be aligned with the theoretical tenets that inform and illuminate deterritorialised wandering. This is complicated by the fact that Molloy and Moran follow two very different nomadic trajectories. Indeed it is, finally, the latter that exemplifies vagrant movement across physically deterritorialised space, thus providing the more useful model for the protean, suggestive formation that is ‘nomadic modernism’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-38
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Beckett Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Deleuze and Guattari
  • Molloy
  • movement
  • nomadism
  • wandering


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