Roberta Cauchi Santoro has successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Beyond the Suffering of Being: Desire in Giacomo Leopardi and Samuel Beckett.” She will be awarded with the degree PhD in Comparative Literature at the June 2013 Convocation ceremony at the University of Western Ontario. On July 1st 2013 Roberta will start a postdoctoral fellowship within the University of Guelph's European Studies Program.
In her dissertation, Roberta questions critical approaches that argue for Giacomo Leopardi’s and Samuel Beckett’s pessimism and nihilism. Beckett quotes Leopardi when discussing the removal of desire in his monograph Proust, a context that has spurred pessimist and nihilist readings. She argues that the inappropriateness of these labels is, on the contrary, specifically exposed through the role of desire in the two thinkers. Looking at Leopardi’s later poetry in the ciclo d’Aspasia, including the last poem “La Ginestra, o il fiore del deserto,” and examining Beckett’s plays Endgame and Happy Days, she argues that desire in Leopardi and Beckett could be read as lying at the cusp between Jacques Lacan’s and Emmanuel Levinas’ theories, a desire that both splits the subject (and is thus based on lack) as much as it moulds the subject when called to address the Other (inspiring what Levinas terms ‘infinity’ as opposed to ‘totality,’ an infinity pitted against the nothingness crucial to pessimist and nihilist readings).