The Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading is pleased to announce that the 32. Beckett Research Seminar will take place on Saturday, 6 November 2021.
The event will be held in Minghella Studios, Whiteknights Campus, University of Reading.
As in previous years, our speakers represent a mixture of early career researchers as well as established scholars, local and international, reflecting current research into Beckett’s work. We hope that the programme will, as in the past, attract a wide and varied audience.
The charge for the day is £20 per participant (£10 unwaged), which includes lunch and refreshments throughout the day.
Please register by 2pm on Friday 29 October 2021 using the following link:
For further information, please contact: Dr Mark Nixon – firstname.lastname@example.org
10.30 – 11.00: Registration / Welcome
11.00 – 11.30: Anna McMullan (University of Reading): ‘Intermedial Embodiments: Company SJ’s Staging of Beckett’s Company’
11.30 – 12.00 Discussion
12.00 – 12.15: Tea / Coffee Break
12.15 – 12.45: Zoe Gosling (University of Manchester): ‘Algebra in the Archive: Calculation and Narrative in Watt’
12.45 – 1.15: Discussion
1.15 – 2.15: Lunch
2.15 – 2.45: Feargal Whelan (Trinity College Dublin): ‘“All traffic is retarded”: Beckett’s Disruptive Trains’
2.45 – 3.15: Discussion
3.15 – 3.30: Tea / Coffee Break
3.30 – 4.00: Olga Beloborodova (University of Antwerp): ‘A “hideous corruption” or a “posthumous collaboration”? Beckett’s Fin de partie in Kurtág’s Opera Adaptation’
4.00 – 4.30: Discussion
4.30 – 4.45: Closing Remarks
We look forward to seeing you!
Anna McMullan and Mark Nixon
(Directors, Beckett International Foundation)
We are delighted to announce that our annual Beckett Week will take in November at Minghella Studies on the Whiteknights Campus of the University of Reading. Beckett Week events will include:
- SPECTRAL LANDSCAPES: ABSENCE, TRAUMA AND NATIONHOOD
Thursday 4th November and Friday 5th November
- BECKETT INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION SEMINAR
Saturday 6th November
SPECTRAL LANDSCAPES: ABSENCE, TRAUMA AND NATIONHOOD
Our two keynotes will be delivered by Professor Emilie Morin (University of York) and Dr Sarah Jane Scaife (Trinity College Dublin).
Panel 1: Isolation, Instability and Absence
- Olan Monk (University of Porto, Portugal): Olan Monk – Uaigneas (2021).
- Mohit Abrol (Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi): “What Remains without Remains”: Spectral Figures and Enactment of Dharma in Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug (1953) and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1953)
- Douglas Atkinson (Vrije Universiteit Brussel,Belgium): Spectral Inversions of Beckett: On the Japanese Reception of Beckett’s Prose
Panel 2: Oceans, Shorelines and Histories
- William Davies (University of Reading): ‘The tide of ebb, upon the level sands’: Reflections on the Deep Time of Coastlines and the Sea
- Xander Ryan (University of Reading): ‘Ebb-Tide from Stevenson to Beckett: the Epistolary Shorelines of Menton(e) and Killiney’
- Clare Finburgh Delijani (Goldsmiths, University of London): Spectral Seascapes: Ghosts in the Middle Passage
- Vanesa Cotroneo (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg): Intermediality, Ghostly Landscapes, and Sustainability in Samuel Beckett’s Theater
- Bryony Taylor (Northumbria University, Newcastle): Systemic Trauma in British Theatre
- JP McMahon (NUI Galway): “Lobster Ecology: Performing Animals with Beckett”
- Hajin Park (University of Reading): Video cassette technology and the reproduced self-image in … but the clouds…: memory, creation and unconsciousness by means of an optical device
- Scarlett Butchers (University of Lincoln): David Rudkin and his depiction of the relationship between people and the land
Panel 3: Sonic Landscapes
- Tyler Bouque (University of Huddersfield): “ ‘From Inner to Outer Shadow’: Absence and Loss in the Musical Landscape of Feldman and Beckett’s ‘Neither’”
- Robert Baker – White (William’s College, Massachusetts): Disembodied Voices/Necessary Landscapes: Beckett’s Radio Drama
- Harry Parks (University of Glasgow): Segregating and Contouring the Soundscape: Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Samuel Beckett’s ‘Cascando’.
Panel 4: Margins, Borderlines and Identity
- Trish McTighe (Queen’s University, Belfast): Drawing in the Margins: Borderland Godot and Across and In-Between
- Hannah Simpson (St Anne’s College, Oxford): Invoking Beckett: Beckett’s Legacy in Northern Irish Poetry
- Alicia Nudler (University of Rio Negro, Argentina): Stops in Krapp’s Last Tape. A reflection on individual and collective memory and archives
Panel 1: Spectres of Technology
- Jonathan Bignell (University of Reading): Beckett’s Television for the Vast Wasteland
- Celia Graham- Dixon (University of Reading): “A faint tangle of pale grey tatters”: Spectral materiality and the fabric of the screen in the 1990 television version of Footfalls (dir. Walter Asmus)
- Evangelia Dandaki & Thomas Symeonidis (Central Saint Martins, UAL & National Technical University of Athens, Greece): System of vision, self-perception and narrative in Ill seen Ill said
Panel 2: Trauma and the Ghosts of Institutionalism
- Shane O’Neill (University of Limerick): “‘…parents unknown…unheard of…’: Re-reading Not I in light of the ‘Mother and Baby Homes Report’, January 2021”
- Chloe Duane (University of Reading): Institutional Scenography: Exploring historical and contemporary marginalisation in Company SJ’s The Women Speak.
- Dunlaith Bird (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord): ‘You know what she died of, Mother Pegg? Of darkness…’: Samuel Beckett, Sean Keating, and the Shannon Scheme.
Panel 3: Memory, Landscape and the Revenant
- Roger Owen (Aberystwyth University, Wales): The Horror of Returning in Meini Gwagedd (1944)
- David Pattie (University of Birmingham): Who is this who is coming?: Beckett and MR James.
- Feargal Whelan (Trinity Centre for Beckett Studies, Dublin): The need for a Dr Petrie: Uncovering embedded history in the landscape of ‘Fingal’
Panel 4: Liminal Spaces
- Mary Steadman (Bath Spa University): Dwelling: Embodying the eerie through a site-sensitive dramaturgy.
- Paul Stewart (University of Nicosia, Cypress): “Hesitating to die to death”: St Augustine and the After-Life in “Echo’s Bones”
A full schedule for the Spectral Landscapes: Absence, Trauma and Nationhood conference can be found here.
BECKETT INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION SEMINAR
The Beckett International Foundation will be holding a seminar on the 6th November with invited speakers. Details on seminar can be found here.
Registration for the Spectral Landscapes: Absence, Trauma, and Nationhood conference is now available here.
Please note that registration for the BIF Seminar is separate to the conference. More information on registration for the BIF Seminar can be found here.
As part of our Talking Beckett series, we are delighted to release recordings from the Beckett Forum. The Beckett Forum is a postgraduate run group that meets frequently throughout each term to read and discuss the works of Samuel Beckett, as well as hosting talks from the Samuel Beckett Research Centre’s Creative Fellows, emeritus professors, academics, and practitioners
Robert McCrum led a session at the Beckett Forum in 2019. McCrum, Creative Fellow from 2019-2020, discussed his creative response to the archives and his new drama Full Moon based on a fictional encounter between P.G. Wodehouse and Beckett in France during World War II. McCrum’s discussion covered a range of topics relating to Beckett’s life and legacy, the importance of radio, and the development of his new play. These recordings can also be listened to on our website here.
We are delighted to announce that Transdisciplinary Beckett: Visual Arts, Music, and the Creative Process will be published by ibidem-Verlag in November 2021. In this monograph, Lucy Jeffery, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Samuel Beckett Research Centre at the University of Reading, analyses Beckett’s use of the visual arts, music, and broadcasting media through a transdisciplinary approach. This book will be the eighth monograph of the ‘Samuel Beckett in Company’ series edited by Paul Stewart.
In this crucial and timely publication, Jeffery makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the relation between Beckett, music, and the visual arts. To do so, Jeffery analyses specific instances where Beckett’s writing adopts musical and/or visual structures. The book is divided into four chapters: ‘Watt’s “wild and unintelligible” painting’, ‘Radio waves of “encircling gloo-oom”’, ‘Watching Beethoven and Schubert’ and ‘Paint it blue: “The vision at last”’. In each chapter, Jeffery draws on musicology and art history, on philosophy and literary theory in order to unpick the significance of Beckett’s own recourse to the arts. In this in-depth study, Jeffery evaluates Beckett’s stylistic shifts in relation to the cultural context, particularly the technological advancements and artistic movements, during Beckett wrote his texts. Jeffery positions Beckett as a key figure in the fields of visual arts, music, and broadcasting media. She foregrounds his transdisciplinary approach to writing by referring to new examples of work in progress from the Beckett Collection at the University of Reading.
In addition to this forthcoming monograph, Jeffery has also published extensively on Beckett in the Journal of Beckett Studies, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. Her forthcoming publications on Beckett can be found here. Jeffery’s interdisciplinary research has seen her publish on a range of other authors, including Harold Pinter, Ezra Pound, Ingeborg Bachmann, and Magda Szabó.
In a recently published interview in The Modernist Review, Jonathan McAllister, of the University of Cambridge, discusses the recent publication of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Philosophy Notes’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020) with books editors Steven Matthews and Matthew Feldman.
This fascinating interview is a reflection on Beckett’s relationship to philosophical writing by two scholars who have spent much of their career reading and thinking about Beckett’s oeuvre. Steven Matthew, for example, dispels the idea of Beckett as a kind of anti-Enlightenment writer, an anti-Enlightenment person, stating that:
[…] some of the most incredible sections of the notes are actually those on Kantian and the post-Kantian philosophies. It appears Beckett really knew his enemy: he wrote out page after page after page about the thing-in-itself, etc., etc., using the most abstruse authority figures amongst the philosophers. It is not the case, therefore, that Beckett was simply instinctually against the idea of homo mensura – ‘man is the measure of everything’ – that man is incapable of some kind of illumination, enlightenment. In fact, he had gone through many, presumably quite tedious, hours of working on this stuff to make sure that he had every single detail.
Read the whole interview in The Modernist Review here.
DEADLINE EXTENSION: For those of you who have not yet submitted your abstracts for the Spectral Landscapes conference, you now have until 31st July to do so!
Emma Keanie, a postgraduate researcher in the Department of English at the University of Reading, reviews the Beckett Brunch 2021 that took place last month on the 24th April.
Following its pandemic-induced postponement last year, the 2021 Beckett Brunch, usually held in Paris, took place on Saturday 24th April in that indeterminate Zoom space with Beckett’s own alma mater, Trinity College Dublin, as its base. The bi-lingual event’s theme – ‘Cross-Border Beckett / Beckett par-delà les frontiers’ – having been determined prior to what is now widely recognised as this new era of virtual engagement and remote learning, was a curiously apt topic on which to focus given the new, or at the very least more felt, borders, particularly those arising from the past year’s societal separation, which we must negotiate.
The Brunch was composed of four sessions, each revolving around the concept of borders. Its opening address was a testament to how the writer’s relationship with France and his adoption of Paris as his permanent domicile in 1937 has fostered an equally enduring and convivial relationship between France and Ireland. For we had the pleasure of hearing Patricia O’Brien, Ambassador of Ireland to France, and Vincent Guérend, French Ambassador to Ireland, broadcasting live from their embassies for the especial purpose of opening our following few hours of Beckettian brunching. In this time of distance and separation it was warming to hear Ambassador O’Brien reflect on how Beckett’s legacy has filtered through time as she spoke of how many Irish people, some knowingly and some not, continue to trace his footsteps and settle in Paris, embracing both their own language and culture and that of their adopted home.
Webinar I centred on ‘Beckett Across Research’, comprising the opening address, a stimulating conversation on the notion of borders in Beckett’s oeuvre with William Davies, Trish McTighe, Feargal Whelan and Kathryn White, and Hélène Lecossois’s and Alicia Byrne Keane’s intriguing papers, respectively entitled ‘Samuel Beckett et la politique de l’intérieur’ and ‘The Value of Vagueness: Samuel Beckett, Haruki Murakami and “Universal” References’. White’s invocation of ‘my way is in the sand flowing’ to open the conversation, a pertinent point of reference which elucidates the writer’s own fixation with thresholds, spoke to the event’s focus on the shifting nature of borders, the fact that they are never quite fixed and often show signs of seepage or overlap, and on that unknown, intermedial space which, in ‘Recent Irish Poetry’, Beckett referred to as the ‘space that intervenes’, prefiguring the ‘nomansland’ in his German Diaries. The conversation continued in this vein, expanding on the variant borders at work in Beckett and the world, such as the physical, topographical, social, political, and psychological, this latter element bringing Coleridge’s ‘mental space’ to mind. Davies spoke of Beckett crossing the French border at the advent of, and not forgetting during, the Second World War, and how borders can be imposed and enforced, causing one to confront or question one’s own identity. Even names can delineate borders, as Davies recalled how Beckett’s forename posed a challenge to his identity: ‘how can you not be Jewish?’. He went on to unfold the idea of genre space and how Beckett’s writing crosses genre thresholds, and it was this thought on the borders between different types of writing which resounded throughout the remainder of our rendezvous which is not, of course, dissimilar to the Joycean notion of a ‘poseproem’. Whelan elaborated on the concept of stability as one which does not exist when it comes to transitioning these numerous types of borders, drawing on Beckett’s formative experience of the Easter Rising in 1916, being shipped off to Portora at the age of ten by his worried father, only for a political – not to mention physical – border to be erected on the partitioning of Ireland whilst he was at school, resulting in his living in a different country from his parents. McTighe drew on her (and White’s) fascinating work on ‘festivalisation’ in Northern Ireland to re-channel the genre issue, showing how, for instance, Seán Doran’s ‘Happy Days: Enniskillen International Beckett Festival’ explores the idea of border-hopping Beckett, staging as it does unique productions of his work at once in the north and south of the island. These first four participants engaged in a diverse discussion of how the writer’s sense of place was directly impacted by borders, providing fruit for thought in abundance. Lecossois and Byrne Keane’s papers complemented the conversation, speaking intuitively to notions of borders in the domestic and gender spheres; it is much to my dismay that my fizzling broadband connection could not wait until the interval to begin its experimentation with my patience.
Dúnlaith Bird, founder of the Beckett Brunch, who is to be commended on the creation of such a wonderful and necessary event, opened the second webinar session which focused on ‘Beckett Across Education’ with her paper entitled ‘Étudier Beckett en génie mécanique’. Nicholas Johnson, Gareth Young and Ann Devitt then discussed the topic ‘Teaching Beckett with Virtual Reality’, an insightful exchange of ideas and works in progress which revealed where this past year of remote working and learning has encouraged researchers to go when contemplating what was referred to as a ‘new phase of education’: a frightening concept or not? Both, perhaps. The participants considered the concept of teaching in a ‘v-sense’, discussing how virtual tools create possibilities in education as well as the potential of virtual reality in cultural arenas and the performing arts, and posed the apposite question: why is Beckett considered as opposed to other writers in this intangible space? Well, aside from it being the Beckett Brunch, we must remember that Beckett is, as Johnson put it, an intermedial writer, one whose work itself travelled through media and endured a range of experimentation even before the digital age. This was an illuminating conversation about technological advances, particularly within education, and how the remote experience could become more immersive through advances in the role of embodiment, the presence of the student becoming more real, as it were, within the mise-en-scène of the virtual classroom, a thrilling concept given my own current status as a ‘by distance’ researcher. The speakers explored how we can suspend disbelief about what reality is and what it is not, broaching methods such as visuality, aurality and haptics to enable students to feel the virtual environment in the way they would a ‘normal’ classroom or lecture theatre. Devitt asked the question that surely defines the current, collective preoccupation: what can make us feel like we are here together? Thus the future of learning was explored through concepts which extended beyond blended and responsive learning to considerations of metacognitive functioning and the creation of a smooth interface between reality and virtual reality. These researchers are looking at an experience which infuses a little more viscerality than traditional virtual learning, and Beckett’s mediating function in their discussion reveals a rich, interdisciplinary research field which crosses the borders between literature and technology.
Megane Mazé and Céline Thobois ended Webinar II with a talk on ‘Lectures bilingues de Beckett au-delà de la classe’, during which they spoke about their experience running the Samuel Beckett Reading Group at Trinity College Dublin and the challenges they faced when such groups were forced to move to the virtual space. They reminded us how, as Beckett himself put it in Ohio Impromptu, when working ‘alone together so much [is] shared’, and it was certainly this sense of being together yet fundamentally alone – which Beckett recognised in, for instance, Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, ‘Two Men Observing the Moon’ – which informed their following discussion in the context of the reading group and which also spoke to the larger movement behind the event; how we can be and feel as alone as we possibly ever have been, and how we strive to ‘keep on keeping on’ together. Both described how the reading group brings a diversity of scholarly perspectives to bear on Beckett’s texts, whilst their focus on translation prompted new thought which chimed with the previous panel’s discussion about virtual reality in education and cultural heritage. Thobois astutely observed how we are no longer simply concerned with translation in the sense of the conversion of one language into another, or even of the notion of a work being translated from the page to the stage, as there is now the broader concept of translating a piece of art – like a classroom environment – from, for example, the theatre into a virtual reality. The future mass medium of virtual content was certainly a key theme underpinning the Brunch, and Mazé and Thobois’s discussion of Stimmung or atmosphere contemplated how we could move or adapt a text across the borders of the tangible into the virtual.
Next, we found ourselves in the midst of an at once Beckettian and virtual pause, suspended in the silence of zoom-waiting (for Godot?) before crossing that ineffable threshold into virtual communication. For we encountered some technical difficulty before Clara Simpson’s remarkable performance of Pas Moi / Not I. The organisers negotiated such Beckettian territory with professional ease and good humour, whilst the pause itself allowed us to experience the intervening space between virtual borders, at once evoking and encouraging a new take on Beckett’s assertion that it is the experience and the silence between the phrases which matters. Indeed, in this liminal, static space one could still sense all the numberless goings on which ultimately prevents that unattainable goal described by the Unnamable as ‘the real silence at last’. And then we were transported by Simpson’s sensational embodiment of mouth. In seeking the words to convey the brilliance of her contribution to the event, I was reminded of language’s capacity not to name, for there seems to be no praise high enough. It was fascinating to see Pas Moi / Not I in this on-screen form, as we were not presented with an illumined mouth on a stage but rather with the actress herself. The emotional involvement required for such a successful performance was visible on her face. The mouth, ever the vehicle of emission, was humanised, which is not to say that this text often (or ever) feels to be far from the human experience, it is more that the visual vocabulary of the stage was transformed in the virtual environment. Infrequent sound malfunctions contributed to the overall effect, as the words blurred briefly, morphing for seconds at a time into a series of moans, which only served to complement Mouth’s angst. An ‘Artistic Roundtable’ featuring Simpson, Lynne Parker and Sarah Jane Scaife concluded this third and final webinar centring on ‘Beckett Across Performance’, and these three excellent panellists offered transformative insights into both acting and directing Beckett’s work, the challenges posed by the past year and their perspectives on virtual possibilities in theatre.
Given the focus on the current limitations of virtual engagement, it is significant that the organisers did not fail to create an interactive, if not immersive, experience through their innovative use of tools such as Padlet and video clips. Participants and attendees were able to upload and share their favourite brunch recipes prior to the event, whilst we could also highlight our presence on a virtual map. One need only glance at the map to see how Beckett has crossed cultural and continental borders, touching the lives of many across the globe. We could also upload one-minute video clips, a selection of which were shown at the beginning of Webinars II and III, which ranged from unique research insights and glimpses of an unpublished Beckett letter to gripping experiments in virtual performance. A ‘Borderless Conversation’ with all participants concluded the event, a thoughtful wrap-up technique which enabled a stronger sense of presence and togetherness. Céline Thobois, Megane Mazé, Dúnlaith Bird and Nicholas Johnson’s organisation and execution of the 2021 Beckett Brunch was undoubtedly a great success, setting a standard for future events and igniting interest in research advances between Beckett studies and technology and the future ease of international engagement.
We are delighted to share with you the brilliant programme of the second Beckett & Italy conference which will be held ‘virtually’ in Rome on 24-26 May 2021. The full list of speakers and events at the Beckett & Italy conference can be found here.
Keynote speakers at this year’s conference include: Enoch Brater (University of Michigan), Annamaria Cascetta (Università Cattolica di Milano), Carla Locatelli (Università di Trento & University of Pennsylvania), John McCourt (Università di Macerata), Manfred Pfister (Freie Universität Berlin) and Dirk Van Hulle (University of Oxford).
The conference also includes the special event ‘An Evening with Beckett: Two Short Films’ by S.E. Gontarski.
Registration is now open here: https://forms.gle/SkWj9k8B1ZDQWbYV8
This week, on the 13th April 2021, would have marked the 115th birthday of Samuel Beckett. The writer was notoriously reluctant to celebrate the annual event, evident in the many letters he responded to throughout the years, such as in 1961 when Beckett wrote to Mary Hutchinson: “I shall not be in Paris for my birthday, nor at Ussy, perhaps at Etretat, or simply on the road with car. Please don’t give me anything, help me to forget the day.”
Beckett’s birthday was celebrated this year by the Journal of Beckett Studies who released a special issue on Beckett in the Contemporary Political Moment, edited by the Samuel Beckett Research Centre’s William Davies.
This special issue, (Volume 30, Issue 1) includes contributions by Rodney Sharkey, Hannah Simpson, Rina Kim, Ken Alba, Jonathan Heron, Will Davies and Trish McTigue. As well as a virtual roundtable on ‘Beckett, Celebrity and Crisis’ with Scott Hamilton, Rosaleen Maprayil, Jonathan McAllister, Matt McFrederick, Rodney Sharkey and Zoë Tweed.
You can read the issue here: https://www.euppublishing.com/toc/jobs/30/1
To celebrate the recent publication of Eimear McBride’s Mouthpieces by Faber & Faber, we are taking a look back on McBride’s journey as the Samuel Beckett Research Centre’s Inaugural Creative Fellow.
On a special episode of RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘The Book Show’, McBride visited The Samuel Beckett Collection in University of Reading. There she gained a rare glimpse at the original manuscripts of Beckett’s first publish novel Murphy and his last published prose work Stirrings Still. This episode features contributions from the Head of Archive Services Guy Baxter, Director of the Beckett International Foundation Dr Mark Nixon, Chair of the Samuel Beckett Research Centre Steven Matthews, Beckett’s biographer and friend James Knowlson, actors Lisa Dwan and Olwen Fouéré. Listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/thebookshow/tbs-s5-2-eimear-mcbride-on-samuel-beckett
Mouthpieces, which divides into three short texts, was composed during McBride’s time as Inaugural Creative Fellow at the Samuel Beckett Research Centre in 2017-2018 with unique access to the Beckett Archives at the University of Reading. In March 2019, Mouthpieces was performed by Eimear McBride and Aoife Duffin on RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘Drama on One’. This recording is an exciting opportunity to experience the musicality and orality of the author’s vivid, original and sharp-witted style. The performance can be listened to here: https://www.rte.ie/drama/radio/plays/2019/0324/1038351-mouthpieces-by-eimear-mcbride/
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