26 May 2015

Beckett and Modernism

2nd Conference of the Samuel Beckett Society
Beckett and Modernism
2nd Conference of the Samuel Beckett Society
27 - 30 April 2016, University of Antwerp

Keynote speakers:
James Knowlson
John Pilling

About the Conference
The year 2016 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Journal of Beckett Studies (JOBS), founded in 1976 by James Knowlson and John Pilling. To celebrate this occasion, we are proud to announce both of them as keynote speakers at the second conference of the Samuel Beckett Society, dedicated to Beckett and Modernism. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Last Modernist’, Beckett has also been situated within the postmodern canon. After a long critical debate, the term ‘modernism’ has recently been reframed by a vibrant field of what is sometimes called the ‘new modernist studies’, and the term ‘Late Modernism’ seems to be gaining currency in Beckett studies. At the same time, several critics have called into question not only the criteria underlying these labels but also the act of categorization itself, the danger being in ‘the neatness of identifications’, as Beckett warned his readers from the start. Therefore, with this second conference of the Samuel Beckett Society, we would like to move beyond the point of labelling and examine the different ways in which Beckett interacted with the broad intellectual and artistic climate commonly referred to as ‘modernism’, taking Susan Stanford Friedman’s ‘definitional excursions’ into account: ‘Modernism requires tradition to “make it new”. Tradition comes into being only as it is rebelled against. Definitional excursions into the meanings of modern, modernity, and modernism begin and end in reading the specificities of these contradictions.’
Call for Papers

Beckett’s formative years coincided with the first publications of several modernist masterpieces. While the importance of Joyce and Proust for Beckett’s work has been widely recognized, his dislike of T. S. Eliot has perhaps been taken too much at face value. One aspect of Eliot’s poetics that Beckett would have agreed with is the importance of the literary tradition for modern writing. As his lectures on ‘The Modern Novel’ at TCD, his early essays and the hundreds of books in his personal library confirm, authors from the previous centuries were central to his twentieth-century poetics. One question to ask is how Beckett used that literary tradition to ‘make it new’, not only in his novels, but also in his plays and poems. Even though Virginia Woolf is entirely absent from his work, he did share her interest in the mind. How different is Beckett’s approach from Woolf’s attempt to ‘look within’, and how does his own exploration of the mind relate to the ‘inward turn’ generally associated with Modernism, and to the recent revision of this concept by David Herman (2011)?

That Beckett was fascinated by the material traces of cognitive processes is shown by his careful preservation of drafts, notebooks or marginalia, and we are still learning how these reading and writing traces in turn continued to shape his own thinking. Beckett was not only interested in the mind and the self, as his psychology notes confirm, but also in the nature of representation. While his familiarity with Mauthner’s Beiträge has received much attention, the influence of Sartre, Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger, Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein on Beckett’s notion of linguistic skepticism and phenomenology still deserves more attention. His work is also informed by his familiarity with numerous other cultural aspects: for instance, his knowledge of the visual arts, both modern and classical, acquired especially during his German trip in the late 1930s and through his friendship with Duthuit and his work on transition; the importance of early cinema, attested by Beckett’s reading of Rudolf Arnheim’s Film in 1936, cannot be ignored; the non-visual medium of radio is another modern artform that he explored, around the same time when he listened to dodecaphonic music with Avigdor Arikha.

Like many of the Modernists, Beckett asked himself what it meant to write in a modern sense, as a young TCD lecturer in 1930. He pondered the question for the next sixty years in his writing, and this conference aims to distill answers from the rich body of work he left behind.

The CFP for the second conference of the Samuel Beckett Society invites abstracts that could focus on, but do not need to be limited to, topics such as:

• Modernist Minds
o Phenomenology and representation (Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, …);
o Analytic philosophy and language (Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, …);
o Psychology and the self (psychoanalysis, Gestalt psychology, …).
• Modernist Poetics
o Beckett’s Manuscripts
o Linguistic scepticism
o Beckett and the ‘Modernists’ (Joyce, Proust, Woolf, Eliot, Flann O’Brien, …)
o The modern novel
• Modernism and Literary Tradition
o Intertextuality
o Beckett’s reading traces (library, notebooks, etc.)
o ‘Make It New’
• Modern Art
o Early cinema, radio broadcasting, technological revolution
o Painting and sculpture
o Experimental music
o Theatrical innovation
• Modern Times, Modern Spaces
o Beckett and politics
o Cosmopolitan/metropolitan Beckett

Abstracts (max. 300 words) should be sent to olga.beloborodova@uantwerpen.be
Deadline 15 September 2015. Notification of decisions by 30 October 2015. For more information about the conference contact dirk.vanhulle@uantwerpen.be
24 April 2015

Samuel Beckett: Archive, Text & Performance

A new Masters Degree programme to be launched at the UK's University of Reading
Starting in October 2015 on this innovative new taught MA programme you will study with world-leading Beckett experts based at the University of Reading. Here you will engage in advanced archival research techniques using the extensive holdings of the University’s world-leading Beckett Archive, applying these skills to the analysis of Beckett’s writing and directing practice. The MA will provide the opportunity to explore the complex and fascinating interdisciplinary dimensions of Beckett’s work across a variety of media including film, theatre, television and radio.

The programme’s flexible modular structure is designed to develop both specialist and broad-based knowledge within Beckett’s ‘literary’ work in the novel and poetry as well as his performance work. Both are intrinsic to the degree, but can also be pursued separately. The MA allows an opportunity to engage in practical explorations of Beckett’s performance work across media using the excellent multimedia facilities housed in the Minghella Building on the University of Reading’s main Whiteknight’s campus.


The MA comprises of three taught modules and a written dissertation/ or practice as research project.

Compulsory Modules
  • Beckett & the Archive
  • Multi-media Beckett
  • Written Dissertation or Practice as Research Project
Optional Modules
  • Beckett & Modernism
  • Beckett & Politics
  • Performing Beckett
  • Full-time: 12 months
  • Part-time: 24 months


Written assignments, presentations and where relevant practical work.

Further Information

Please contact our convenors:

Professor Steven Matthews (Department of English) s.matthews@reading.ac.uk
Dr Graham Saunders (Department of Film, Theatre & Television) g.saunders@reading.ac.uk
17 April 2015

International Beckett Season

June 2015 · Barbican, London

A month-long season comprising nine theatrical pieces that span almost thirty years of Beckett’s career. Uniting theatre companies from across the world, the Barbican invites you to pick and choose from a range of the artists’ work; from prose and radio plays to immersive experiences and site-specific adventures.

Students can access half-price tickets to selected performances of the season, please see the ‘Ticket Info’ tab of each show page for more information. 

Waiting for Godot

Sydney Theatre Company
4–13 June 2015, Theatre
Bickering, joking and musing on the profound, Beckett's comic duo try to find ways to pass the time; their endurance a reminder of humanity's talent for resilience. [More]


Olwen Fouéré
5–8 June 2015, Frobisher Auditorium 2
Having placed 60 sentences in a container, Beckett picked them at random to decide their order, creating pioneering and unpredictable prose. Come along to hear it performed live. [More]

Rough for Theatre I and Act Without Words II

12–20 June 2015, Meet at the Advance Box Office
Physical theatre meets promenade tradition in these two shot plays. With one drama wordless, the plays unfold in the Barbican's unique outdoor environment. [More]

All That Fall

Pan Pan Theatre
10–21 June 2015, The Pit
Sit back and nestle into your rocking chair as recorded words and sounds invite you to experience Beckett's first radio play, staged in a chamber of ambient lights. [More]

Honouring Intentions: The Director and Beckett

13 June 2015, Frobisher Auditorium 1
Directors from across the season come together for a panel discussion in which we explore and discuss the role of the director in the staging of Beckett's work. [More]

Krapp's Last Tape

Robert Wilson
19–21 June 2015, Barbican Theatre
Echoing silent movie tradition, Robert Wilson brings this haunting one-man play to the stage, laying bare Beckett's protagonist's despair and isolation. [More]

You can read more about the Barbican's upcoming Beckett events by visiting their website.
16 April 2015

Beckett and Europe

MERL, University of Reading · 28-29 October 2015

Beckett and Europe
28th - 29th October 2015 - MERL, University of Reading
Abstract Deadline: 8th June 2015
Keynote Speaker: Dr David Tucker (Chester University)

The Beckett at Reading Postgraduate group is pleased to announce a new postgraduate and Early Careers two-day conference with the theme of Beckett and Europe. We will be hosting two on-site archival workshops on manuscripts and performance during the conference. There will also be a public lecture on Happy Days by Professor James Knowlson. This will be followed by the Beckett International Foundation Seminar on the 30th of October.

We invite postgraduates and Early Career Researchers to submit abstracts under the general theme of ‘Beckett and Europe’. The aim of the conference is to engage postgraduates and ECRs in research exchange with an interdisciplinary and cross-media focus. Born in Ireland in 1906, Beckett wrote in English, French and German and directed his own theatrical work in London, Berlin and Paris. The span and influence of Beckett’s work in 20th Century Europe is essential to many questions that inform Beckett scholarship: How do we frame Beckett nationally/internationally and has this changed? What influence did Beckett have on European artists, writers and thinkers? How has Beckett’s work entered the European tradition?

All disciplines are welcome including philosophy, linguistics, theatre and performance, archival research, art, science, cultural studies, politics, history, music, theology and literature. We also invite submissions that contest and interrogate a Eurocentric focus on Beckett. Issues to consider may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Beckett, History and the Politics of Europe
  • Beckett and World War II
  • Beckett’s European Legacy
  • Beckett and the City
  • Beckett and European Theatre: Performance and Practice
  • Beckett and the Archive
  • Beckett, Nation and Translation
  • Beckett and Culture: E.g. Music, Art, Architecture
  • Beckett and European Philosophy
  • Beckett and Traditions: Prose, Poetry, Drama
  • Different modes of Beckett criticism in the various European traditions
Please send abstracts, in English, of 300–500 words to barpconference@gmail.com with a short bio of no more than 150 words before 8 June 2015.

Beckett at Reading Postgraduates (BARP): https://barpgroup.wordpress.com/

Three Short Plays by Samuel Beckett

Old Red Lion Theatre · 7-25 April 2015

About the Plays

Whispering Beasts presents Three Short Plays by Samuel Beckett, a triple bill of rarely performed Beckett plays at the Old Red Lion Theatre. The production, consisting of three dark comedies Act Without Words I, Catastrophe and Rough for Theatre II, will be directed by Sara Joyce and will run from 7 – 25 April, with a press night on 9 April.

Director: Sara Joyce; Designer: Charlie Marie Austin; Lighting Designer: Joshua Pharo; Composer and Sound Designer: Greg Harradine.

Act Without Words I
Trapped alone in a desert, a man is teased and tormented by an unseen force as he seeks salvation.

Rough for Theatre II
In the dead of night, Morvan and Bertrand are deciding the destiny of a man who is contemplating a fatal jump from the window of his apartment.

An autocratic Director, his bewildered Assistant and a seemingly submissive Performer are whipping themselves into a frenzy on the final rehearsal before their opening night.

Charged with humour, anger and humanity, these plays create a surreal yet familiar world; a world of mystery and mercurial characters, where control of everything is undetermined and salvation can emerge from the most unexpected places.

About the Author

Samuel Beckett was a playwright, novelist, director and poet, widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His plays include Waiting for Godot, Happy Days, Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape, Not I, Eh Joe, Footfalls and Rockaby.

About the Director

Sara Joyce directs. She is currently Assistant Director at Soho Theatre on the most recent production Death of a Comedian currently on tour to Lyric Theatre Belfast and Abbey Theatre Dublin. Last year Sara directed Click, The Playboy Variations and Soho Young Playwrights project, which she will direct again in June, working with very young writers towards a professional production of their own plays.

About the Company

Whispering Beasts is an award-winning theatre company, founded by Bryan Moriarty and Sara Joyce, dedicated to creating new productions of classic and contemporary Irish plays in London. Its mission is to explore, trace and nurture what it refers to as the Irish Voice – a unifying set of themes, concerns and motifs that recur throughout the Irish theatrical canon.

Whispering Beasts is the winner of the Deutsche Bank Award for Drama and resident theatre company at the London Irish Centre where it is holding workshops in tandem with this project. The company wants to bring Beckett to a new audience, and will be collaborating with Copenhagen Youth Project - a local youth group - throughout rehearsals with a view to feeding their reactions to the plays, and ideas about what they would like to see from theatre into the final production.


Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London, EC1V 4NJ
Box Office: 0844 412 4307
Website: www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk

Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm
Saturday matinees 3pm
Sunday matinees 2pm
Relaxed performance at 3pm on 23 April, as part of Old Red Lion Extra Live!


For further information please contact Alexander Milward on 07903 218 280 or alexander@katemorleypr.com
16 February 2015

Beckett’s Bodies: Affect, Disability, Performance

SAMLA 85: Durham, NC Nov 13-15, 2015
The Samuel Beckett Society, Affiliated Session
Conference of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA)
Chair/contact: Michelle Rada, Brown University

Beckett’s Bodies: Affect, Disability, Performance

This panel seeks to explore the ways in which bodies are figured and disfigured in Beckett’s work. On their own constituting an expansive “body of work,” Beckett’s prose texts, poems, plays, radio, television, and film works posit human, non-human, and inhuman bodies in different and often surprising forms. What kinds of bodies are incorporated, disembodied, or stripped bare in Beckett’s work? How can we trace the life, vulnerability, and survival of the body in single texts and across works? Are Beckettian physical and textual bodies susceptible to or immune from affect? Which bodies, metaphorical or otherwise, are excluded from consideration and care in a quite prolific archive of Beckett criticism? How does the body function and dysfunction across genre and media, prose and performance? The purpose of this panel is to provide a multidisciplinary platform for thinking about the body in Beckett’s work through emerging reading practices, which could engender new connections and ideas for such an extensively critiqued range of texts. In keeping with SAMLA’s theme for the 2015 conference, “In Concert: Literature and the Other Arts,” emphasis placed on thinking across genre, media, and theoretical approaches is encouraged, and will be a significant part of our conversation at this panel.

Possible approaches and topics may include, but are not limited to:

Queer bodies in Beckett’s work
Beckett and disability studies
Bodily capacity and its limits in performance
Affect and its embodied forms
Gendered bodies and feminist approaches to Beckett
Abject and aging bodies, dead bodies, and animal bodies
Material bodies and the life of the object
Beckett’s body of work and its sustained life in/through/as Beckett criticism
The precarious body, vulnerability, and the pains of survival
Ill-sensing: perception and the phenomenological body in Beckett
Food studies, consuming bodies, oral fixations, sucking stones
Sex and reproduction in Beckett
Adaptations of Beckett and the political, gendered, and racialized body
Dance, stage directions, choreography, and demands on the performing body

Please send a 250-300 word abstract, a brief bio, and any questions to: michelle_rada@brown.edu by June 1st, 2015.
10 February 2015

Autumn 2014 Issue of The Beckett Circle: Now Online

Inside this Issue


President's Address
Beckett Circle Editorship
Nominations: Executive Board of the Samuel Beckett Society


Inaugural Conference of the Samuel Beckett Society


Mark Nixon, 'Editing Samuel Beckett's Echo's Bones'
Peter Fifield, 'Writing with Beckett or, Inside the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project'

Theatre Reviews

Stefano Rosignoli, 'I Went to the House But Did Not Enter'
Niamh Mary Bowe, 'Fizzles'

New Releases

Book Reviews
New and Forthcoming

Not a Member? Become a Member of the Samuel Beckett Society to access issues of The Beckett Circle.
27 October 2014

Conference: Staging Beckett and Contemporary Theatre and Performance Cultures

Minghella Building, University of Reading 10-11 April 2015
Samuel Beckett. Photograph: Reg Lancaster/Getty Images
Staging Beckett and Contemporary Theatre and Performance Cultures
Minghella Building, University of Reading 10-11 April 2015
Conference Call for Papers

The Staging Beckett team is pleased to announce the project’s third and final conference, Staging Beckett and Contemporary Theatre and Performance Cultures. Building on the conversation begun at the first two events which addressed national and international performance histories and productions at the cultural ‘margins’ respectively, this conference aims to address how we can locate productions of Beckett’s theatre or the staging of any Beckett text within the wider landscape of contemporary theatre and performance in different cultural contexts. What are the legacies of productions of Beckett’s theatre or stage adaptations of other texts for contemporary theatre and performance practitioners? How can we best document and record those legacies? We are keen to hear from academics and practitioners (whether UK, Irish or international) interested in the legacies of particular performances, the documentation and analysis of Beckett in performance, and in the dialogues between Beckett’s theatre and wider theatre and performance practices and cultures. Issues to consider might be, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Recent productions of Beckett’s drama
  • The ‘Festivalisation’ of Beckett
  • ‘West End’ Beckett
  • Beckett and Contemporary Live Art / Experimental / Intermedial performance
  • Beckett and Censorship
  • International touring productions to the UK and Ireland (e.g. Robert Wilson and Peter Brook) or from the UK and Ireland (e.g. the Dublin Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festival)
  • Beckett and contemporary stage design / dramaturgy
  • Beckett, performance and the digital
  • The adaptation / appropriation of Beckett’s non-theatre texts for performance
  • Beckett and music in performance
  • Beckett’s legacies for performance
Staging Beckett is a three year collaborative research project undertaken by the universities of Chester, Reading, and the Victoria & Albert Museum which started in September 2012, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project explores the impact of productions of Beckett’s plays on British and Irish theatre practice and cultures while also looking at how Beckett has been staged internationally, and it is compiling a database of professional productions of Beckett’s plays in the UK and Ireland which will be available in 2015.

Please send proposals of c. 300 words to p.mctighe@reading.ac.uk by December 1, 2014.

More information on Staging Beckett project events and activities can be found at http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/staging-beckett/

Staging Beckett team: Matthew McFrederick (Reading), Anna McMullan (Reading), Trish McTighe (Reading), David Pattie (Chester), Graham Saunders (Reading), David Tucker (Chester).

Reminder: Inaugural Samuel Beckett Society Conference in 2015

How to get involved
Design: Rhys Tranter
In collaboration with the Samuel Beckett Society, Arizona State University will host an international conference at the Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix, AZ on February 19th and 20th, 2015. The inaugural conference of the Samuel Beckett Society will bring together new, emerging, and established perspectives on the Nobel laureate’s writing for a sustained exchange of ideas. Distinguished Professor David Lloyd will deliver a keynote address; ASU will present a concert at the Arizona Irish Cultural Centering, featuring pieces associated with Beckett and his work; and a roundtable session will focus on Beckett and the digital humanities.

Conference Registration
We have set up an easy online registration system for the conference. Please navigate to our Reg Online site and sign up ($175 for faculty; $100 for students) at your earliest convenience.

Samuel Beckett Society Membership
All non-ASU affiliated attendees must be current members of the Samuel Beckett Society ($35 per year faculty; $20 per year students). If you are not a member, please visit the SBS Membership Page.

We have secured a discounted conference rate of $139 per night at the Clarendon Hotel. February is peak season in the Phoenix area, so please reserve your room as soon as possible. Space is limited. For more information, please visit the accommodations page of the official conference website.

Facebook Page
Like us on Facebook and receive updates regarding conference programming, meal menus, area tours, and more.

If you have any questions about the conference please contact us at beckettconference2015@gmail.com.
5 September 2014

Samuel Beckett Week 2014

University of Reading · 1-4 October 2014
A manuscript notebook of Samuel Beckett's first novel, Murphy
From the University of Reading:

We will be holding an exhibition and series of public events to celebrate the University's internationally renowned collection of manuscripts from the Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).

Wednesday 1 - Saturday 4 October
Public Exhibition: "Samuel Beckett in London - the Murphy Notebooks". 
Museum of English Rural Life (free).
At this exhibition, which will focus on Beckett's time in London between 1934 and 1935, the University's recently acquired notebooks for Beckett's novel Murphy will be on display alongside a wide range of other material.

Thursday 2 October
Beckett Archive Workshop. 
2-4pm, Museum of English Rural Life (free). Please book in advance.
Open to all, this free two-hour workshop will introduce the University's Beckett archive to participants. It is open to any interested members of the public, but places must be booked in advance.

Friday 3 October
Public Lecture and Drinks Reception: Professor Dan Gunn - "Samuel Beckett Through his Letters".
5.30pm, Minghella Building, Whiteknights Campus (free). Please book in advance.
Dan Gunn is Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the American University of Paris, and editor of the Letters of Samuel Beckett.

Saturday 4 October
The Beckett International Foundation Annual Research Seminar 2014. 
10am, Museum of English Rural Life (£20 waged, £15 unwaged). Includes lunch and refreshments. Please book in advance.
This day-long advanced seminar will explore some of the latest research in Beckett Studies.

For further details and booking please contact:
Workshop and/or Lecture: Conor Carville - c.carville@reading.ac.uk
BIF Seminar: Mark Nixon - m.nixon@reading.ac.uk

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