Samuel Beckett & Japan: A Virtual Seminar Series

Seminar 3:

Saturday 11th March 2023 (via MS Teams) 

10-11.30am Dublin/London; 11am-12.30pm CET; 7-8.30pm Tokyo

Please join us for the third session in this seminar series examining aspects of the reception of Samuel Beckett’s work in Japan. The history of Beckett in this region includes performance practices that have introduced (and adapted) Beckett’s work for Japanese theatre, translations of Beckett’s work into Japanese since the 1950s, and important scholarly interventions into the field. There is a rich record of scholarship emerging from Japan that has expanded the global reach of our understanding of Beckett. The foundational scholarly and translation work of Professors Shin’ya Ando and Yasunari Takahashi exemplifies this, as does the work of the Beckett Research Circle of Japan, which was founded in 1992 and continues Japanese critical engagements with Beckett. This seminar series seeks to mark these histories of Beckett’s presence in Japanese culture, as well as explore the significance of Japanese thinking and performance practices on our understanding of Beckett.

This series is presented by the Samuel Beckett Working Group at IFTR and the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s University Belfast.

Mariko Hori Tanaka, ‘Samuel Beckett and Tadashi Suzuki’

Tadashi Suzuki, a world-famous director known for his eponymous training method, remarks that he was influenced by Samuel Beckett. Though he himself has not undertaken to direct Beckett, he uses scenes from Beckett in his directorial work.

Suzuki, along with other young Underground artists, resisted the establishment and questioned the status quo and rationality in general, expressing madness and indecency. The impetus of that resistance came out of feelings of defeat within the political movements of the 1960s to make societal change. The dream of their revolution did not come true and this sense of defeat, despair and hopelessness were presented by Underground artists. Suzuki admits that his characters, whether they are in Greek plays or Shakespeare, are ‘fight[ing] the battle of the defeated’ (Suzuki, The Way of Acting, 110). Suzuki’s theatrical works and his emphasis on stamping functioned as the recovery of the body and the spirit that have been estranged since the Meiji era. There are comparable approaches to the body in the work of each of these artists; what Suzuki demands is similar to what Beckett seeks from actors. In this talk, I will explore how Beckett is influential in Suzuki’s work and how Suzuki’s directorial method and philosophy are akin to what Beckett demands of his actors.

Douglas Atkinson, ‘Saying I: Beckett and Modern Japanese Literature’

The goal of this paper is to explore a very peculiar phenomenon in Beckett scholarship, namely, the perplexing reception of Beckett’s prose in Japan.  As Tajiri Yoshiki has demonstrated, in contrast to the reception of his theatrical works, Beckett’s prose has played only a minor role in 20th century Japanese Literature, with few if any major authors acknowledging the influence of Beckett’s prose.  Given the stated centrality of the prose in regard to his own work, this response is strange enough. However, when we scratch beyond the surface of Modern Japanese Literature, the absence of a meaningful response to Beckett’s prose shows the signs of a deeper, and potentially darker, mystery to be solved.

As such, this paper will follow the work of Karatani Kojin and other major thinkers in Modern Japanese Literature in an attempt to situate – thematically and historically – what I have termed the ‘non-reception’ of Beckett’s prose in Japan.  My primary focus will be to show the striking similarities between Beckett’s prose and the Japanese shishōsetsu, or “I-Novel”, in order to forge a new vantage from which to contextualize the (non)reception of Beckett’s prose in Japan.

To attend this session please book via the following link, the meeting link will be circulated shortly before the session:

Series Organisers: Mariko Hori Tanaka (Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo), Michiko Tsushima (University of Tsukuba), Kumiko Kiuchi (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Yoshiko Takebe (Shujitsu University), and Trish McTighe (Queen’s University Belfast).

For queries relating to the event and booking please contact

Speaker Biographies

Mariko Hori Tanaka is a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University. She has published essays and book chapters on Samuel Beckett and other playwrights. She co-edited Samuel Beckett and Pain (Rodopi, 2013), Samuel Beckett and Trauma (Manchester UP, 2018), Influencing Beckett / Beckett Influencing (L’Harmattan, 2020), Beckett’s Voices / Voicing Beckett (Brill, 2021) and Samuel Beckett and Catastrophe (Palgrave McMillan, 2023). In Japanese, she has authored Beckett Junrei [Beckett Pilgrimage] (Sanseido, 2007), Kaitei o Kasaneru Godot o Machinagara: Enshutsuka to shite no Beckett [Revised Versions of Waiting for Godot: Beckett as a Director] (Fujiwara-shoten, 2017).

Douglas Atkinson teaches at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where he lectures in critical thinking, rhetoric, and academic composition. He holds a PhD in philosophy and specializes in 20th century Continental Philosophy, with an emphasis on the intersection between philosophy and literature. His research focuses primarily on the philosophic import of Maurice Blanchot and his influence on the philosophy of language.  His most recent publications have appeared in Twentieth-Century Literature and Samuel Becket Today/Aujourd’hui, and he has organized conferences on Samuel Beckett and the Nonhuman and Samuel Beckett and the Anthropocene.  He is currently working on a critical rereading of the Japanese reception of Samuel Beckett’s prose.