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Screening: Samuel Beckett and Artists’ Cinema

Beckett’s work has inspired many contemporary visual artists, but in recent years it has been the area of artists’ film that has seen the clearest impact.

On Friday 23rd of June 2023, The Samuel Beckett Research Centre at the University of Reading will present rarely screened work by several artists. The screenings will be followed by a roundtable discussion and the launch of Samuel Beckett’s Afterlives: Adaptation, Remediation, Appropriation, the recent collection of essays edited by Jonathan Bignell, Anna McMullan and Pim Verhulst.

The programme for the event includes:

Stan Douglas, Vidéo (2007): Introduced by Conor Carville 

Stan Douglas’ video installationVidéois a reimagining of both Orson Welles’s film “The Trial” (based on Kafka’s novel of the same name) and Beckett’s film “Film”.  

John Gerrard, Bone Work (Gulf of Mexico) (2022): Introduced by John Gerrard (Via Zoom).  

John Gerrard’s Bone Work (Gulf of Mexico) is a simulation centred on sixteen fragments of dead coral found by the artist on the shores of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Gulf Of Mexico. 

Duncan Campbell, o Joan, no…(2006): Introduced by Duncan Campbell.  

Duncan Campbell’s o Joan, no…(2006) is a short film drawing on the lighting directions and effects in Beckett’s Play 

Roundtable Discussion on Beckett, Artists’ Film/Installation and Adaptation. 

Jonathan Bignell (Reading); Duncan Campbell; David Houston Jones (Exeter); Anthony Paraskeva (Roehampton); Derval Tubridy (Goldsmiths); Jivitesh Vashisht (UCD).  

The screenings will begin at 2:30pm in Minghella Studios’s cinema at the University of Reading, with the roundtable discussion beginning at 4:30pm. The event will be followed by a reception at 6:00pm.

The event is free, and all are welcome, but places are limited, so please register here. More details of timings and participants to follow.

Image: Stan Douglas. Vidéo, 2007. High definition video installation, colour, sound (six musical variations. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner New York/London, and Victoria Miro, London.

Samuel Beckett & Japan: A Virtual Seminar Series

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:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/samuel-beckett-japan-a-virtual-seminar-series-tickets-546224822147

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 t.mctighe@qub.ac.uk.


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.

The University of Gdańsk Samuel Beckett Seminar 2023

The University of Gdańsk Samuel Beckett Seminar 2023

Who Wrote Godot?
18-19 May 2023
University of Gdańsk, Poland

The title of the seminar – Who Wrote Godot? – was suggested by Professor S.E. Gontarski (Florida State University, USA). During the seminar, he will be in Gdańsk/Sopot to launch his new book Bad Godots: “Vladimir enters from the barrel” and other Interventions, published in the Cambridge University Press “Elements in Beckett Studies” series. Professor Gontarski’s keynote address will be followed by a showing of the films and documentaries in which he has been involved since the early 1980s. We invite scholars who are eager to share their current work on Beckett in a variety of (global) contexts. We suggest that the question posed in the seminar title and in the following note by Professor Gontarski might trigger papers and discussions of a variety of works, in a variety of ways, and through a variety of approaches.

“Who, finally, wrote the script for the Waiting for Godot we are reading, or who ‘authored’ the performances we watch? The answer may depend on what one means by such a question, which edition one is holding, say, or how much attention the producer and director (at least) have paid to the script they at least began with before other theatrical professionals – producers, designers, directors, actors, and investors – entered the scene? Some texts of Beckett’s first produced play were censored, others localized, overtly re-written, and, as published, these remain in circulation, part of the marketplace amid serial reprints and resales. They are seldom withdrawn or destroyedfor reasons of corruption or infidelity, and so they remain in circulation, sitting in libraries, school closets and on personal bookshelves to be lent to friends and reused for performances.

The alterations in these texts may be minor on the whole, but they are almost never inconsequential. ‘French’s’ or ‘Samuel French’s Acting Editions’ are high water marks of textual corruption, the product of unauthorized intervention even as they have attracted little attention from Beckett scholars. Minor as each may be individually, the range of these alterations is vast, as Beckett’s terse, astringent prose is continually inflated, the silences rendered less so. In the London premieres, for example, the sparse, arid set is littered with a barrel, cattails, hanging vines, ‘A rostrum’, and other cluttering ‘details’ – some of Pozzo’s whip-wielding cruelty is eliminated. As strangers approach, our two waiters ‘huddle together, behind the barrel’ (SF 10). What barrel? Who wrote this? Not Beckett! But this is the text as performed in London in 1955 and subsequently published repeatedly.

While all theatrical performance is subject to variation – from show to show, from theatre space to theatre space, from night to night, from actor to replacement actor – so that all performance is adaptation, to one degree or another, but the degree of variation, the differences between the contingencies of performance, the failures of memory, say, and the deliberate reconfiguration of a script and its staging are the issues at play here. The productions of Waiting for Godot that premiered in London at both The Arts (August 1955) and Criterion Theatres (September 1955-March 1956) and the Dublin premiere at the Pike Theatre (October 1955) were co-authored texts, as was the American premiere that opened in Coral Gables, Florida, in January of 1956 – each director tampering with, localizing, regularizing, stamping the text as his own by intervening and altering in the script far beyond what the author would deem acceptable (if he knew). Both credited (the LC in the UK) and uncredited interventionists (producers, directors, and actors on both sides of the Atlantic) shaped and altered what audiences saw in performance, some of what was subsequently and repeatedly published.” (S.E. Gontarski)

Confirmed keynote speakers for the seminar are:
• Professor Octavian Saiu (Hong Kong Metropolitan University): Rereading,
Rewriting, Reimagining Beckett: Text and Context Beyond the Canon;
• Professor Robson Corrêa de Camargo (Federal University of Goiás, Brazil): Samuel
Beckett and Maskara at the Brazilian Savannah: Lost and Found.

In addition to the above, Dr hab. Tomasz Wiśniewski, Prof. UG, will discuss two recent productions Zé Celso’s Esperando Godot by Teatro de Oficina Uzyna Uzona (São Paulo, Brazil) and Jarosław Fret’s Back to Beckett by Teatr ZAR / The Grotowski Institute (Wrocław, Poland) as examples of experimental Beckett for the present times.

The University of Gdańsk Samuel Beckett Seminar is part of the Between.Pomiędzy Dispersed Festival, which also includes the conference The Geography of the Theatre Imagination (18-20 May 2023), performance workshops run by Katarzyna Pastuszak, open discussions with Teatr Amareya and the Sopot Dance Theatre, and other events. For more information on Between.Pomiędzy see: www.between.org.pl

We invite proposals for 15-minute papers that provide insight into current Beckett scholarship.The deadline for a 200 word proposal is 15 March 2023 (tomasz.wisniewski@ug.edu.pl). The seminar fee is 200 PLN / 50 euros.

The conference is organised by the Beckett Research Group in Gdańsk (University of Gdańsk) in partnership with TheTheatreTimes, The Grotowski Institute in Wrocław, and Teatr ZAR.

The Beckett Research Group in Gdańsk was founded and is led by Dr hab. Tomasz Wiśniewski, Prof. UG. It is affiliated to the Department of Theatre Arts in the English and American Studies Institute at the University of Gdańsk. It brings together people in English, Romance, and Polish studies and artists from various centres in Poland and abroad. Its honorary patron is Professor S.E. Gontarski of Florida State University in the USA. BRGiG works together with Beckett scholars from Poland and the world (Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil), and with translators and artists engaging in work related to Beckett. Indeed, the encounter of academic and creative worlds – searching for varied and not always complementary ways of seeing Beckett’s work – is the main axis of the activities of BRGiG. We organize regular Beckett seminars in the Three Cities area, and also theatre workshops/laboratories and discussions with poets, writers, film makers, and theatre workers. We also engage in publishing activities and support various artistic projects. In 2012, the collections of essays Samuel Beckett. Tradycja-awangarda, and Back to the Beckett Text opened the Between.Pomiędzy series published by the University of Gdańsk Press. In 2017, the eleventh volume in the series appeared, entitled Beckett w XXI wieku. Rozpoznanie. In 2016, from Maski publishers, the book Przedstawienie Becketta (Representing Beckett) appeared, containing Polish translations of essays by S.E. Gontarski. Cooperation with the Sopot Dance Theatre has led to the production Wszystko co widać. Ohio, and the film All This This Here. Professor Gontarski’s laboratory work from the Festival is documented in the film “…but the clouds…,” which has been shown in Poland and the USA, during the Beckett Summer School at Trinity College Dublin, and at the Charles University in Prague. In 2010, the documentary film Back to the Beckett Text (Beckett na Plaży) appeared, and at the 2019 Between.Pomiędzy Festival, S.E. Gontarski’s film Beckett on the Baltic had its world premiere.

Announcement: Creative Fellows 2022-2023

The Samuel Beckett Research Centre at the University of Reading is delighted to announce the appointment of two new Creative Fellows 2022-23: Claire-Louise Bennett and Simon Okotie.

Claire-Louise Bennett has written two acclaimed works of fiction. Her debut Pond was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2015. It was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2016. In 2022 the highly-anticipated novel Checkout 19 was a pick of the year in The Guardian, The Telegraph and the New Statesman. It was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. Her short story ‘Invisible Bird recently appeared in The New Yorker.

Claire-Louise studied drama and has worked extensively in theatre, often speaking of her admiration for Samuel Beckett’s plays. Beckett’s prose too has been a major influence. In an interview in The Guardian she remarks how reading Beckett gives her ‘a sense of space and a kind of an ease, almost; you know, I don’t know if there is any kind of meaning and I don’t like to get too attached to ideas anyhow. I’m quite able to sort of just hang in a way.’ We are very pleased that Claire-Louise has taken the opportunity to hang a bit more with Beckett by engaging with Reading’s world-renowned collection of his papers.

Simon Okotie is a fiction writer and essayist. He is the author of Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon?In the Absence of Absalon, and After Absalon, an acclaimed trilogy of novels, all published by Salt. In the Absence of Absalon was longlisted for the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize. Simon’s work has appeared in gorse3:AM MagazineFirmament and The White Review. ‘Two Degrees of Freedom,’ a short story, is published by Nightjar Press. ‘Bindings’ was selected for the Best British Short Stories 2021 anthology.

Of the protagonist of Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? Blake Morrison notes in the London Review of Books that ‘There’s a touch of Charlie Chaplin about him, or of John Cleese, as mediated by Beckett’. Okotie readily acknowledges the influence of Beckett on his work, and in particular the later short prose and ‘closed space’ pieces. The TLS has drawn attention to Simon’s ‘obsessive attention to the miraculous geometries of human movement’ and this is just one way in which his writing shows an affinity with Beckett’s. Simon is currently completing a novel and a collection of essays. We are very much looking forward to having him with us over the next year.

Over the course of their year-long Fellowships, Claire-Louise and Simon will engage with the contents, history and spaces of the world-leading archive relating to Samuel Beckett’s work which is held at the University’s Special Collections. Supported by colleagues at the Samuel Beckett Research Centre, through this engagement with the archives they will produce new creative work, to be premiered at the end of their time with us. Claire-Louise and Simon follow our previous fellows, Hannah Khalil, Duncan Campbell, Eimear McBride, and novelist Robert McCrum and composer Tim Parkinson, in accepting a Creative Fellowship at the Centre. We are very excited about the opportunity to work with them.

Beckett at Reading – 50th Anniversary

Beckett at Reading 50th Anniversary
Celebrating the Beckett Exhibition of 1971
Organised by the Beckett International Foundation and the Beckett Research Centre
Minghella Studios, University of Reading, 4-5 November 2022

Friday 4 November 2022

13.30-14.00     Coffee and Registration

14.00-14.15     Opening Words

14.15-15.00     The Billie Whitelaw and Katharine Worth Collections (Jonathan Heron and Matthew McFrederick)

15.00-15.45     Academic Projects I: Staging Beckett (Anna McMullan and Trish McTighe) and Beckett’s Doodles (Jonathan Bignell and Bill Prosser)

15.45-16.15     Coffee Break

16.15–17.15     Three Dialogues: The Beckett Archive

Guy Baxter: A Peek between the Boxes: Continuity and Change in the Beckett Archive

Derval Tubridy: Upending Ekphrasis: Beckett and the livre d’artiste

Pascale Sardin: The Beckett Archive from a French Perspective

17.15-18.00     Barry McGovern: The Archive – ‘it’s another of my resources’

[Break]

19.15-20.30     Beckett Fellowship Premiere:  Hannah Khalil’s ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Son’ (followed by a Q&A with Hannah Khalil and Maureen Beattie)

20.30-21.30     Wine Reception and Launch of the ‘In Memory of Mary Bryden: 20th Century French Drama Collection’


Saturday 5 November 2022

12.30-13.00     Coffee and Registration

13.00-14.15     Company

Trinity College Dublin (Julie Bates with Creative Fellows)

The Beckett Circle of Japan (recording)

The Beckett Society (Laura Salisbury)

The Happy Days Beckett Festival (Sean Doran)

14.15-15.00     Academic Projects II: Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon) / The Samuel Beckett Letters Project (recording)

15.00-15.30     Coffee Break

15.30-16.00     The Beckett Archive through the Years (Anna McMullan / Mark Nixon

A Message from Berlin (Walter Asmus; recording)

16.00-17.00    Roundtable: Beckett Studies

(Chair: Trish McTighe; Participants: Daniela Caselli, William Davies, Hannah Simpson, Katherine Weiss, Shane Weller)

17.00-17.30     Coffee Break

17.30-18.30     The Knowlson-Beckett Interview Tapes (James Knowlson)

[Break]

19.30-20.45     Jan Jönson: ‘Moments of Reality’

20.45-21.30     Closing Remarks and Wine Reception


Exhibitions

‘Let us do something, while we have the chance.’ The Origins of Reading’s Samuel Beckett Collection, University of Reading Library, University of Reading, 27 September 2022 – 13 January 2023: https://tinyurl.com/origins-of-Beckett-at-Reading

‘A glimpse of the surface’: Samuel Beckett and Avigdor Arikha, The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, 4 October 2022 – 27 January 2023: https://tinyurl.com/Beckett-and-Arikha


Registration: https://tinyurl.com/Beckett-at-Reading-50

Donations: https://tinyurl.com/donate-to-Beckett-at-Reading
Please support the activities of the Beckett International Foundation and the Beckett Research Centre by giving as much or as little as you can! Thank you.

If you have any queries, please contact Mark Nixon (m.nixon@reading.ac.uk)

Inaugural Beckett Creative Fellows announced

The School of English at Trinity College Dublin is delighted to announce that it will be hosting Niamh Campbell and Nathan O’Donnell as the inaugural Beckett Creative Fellows this coming academic year, 2022-23.

This scheme is a collaboration with the Samuel Beckett Research Centre at the University of Reading, which has pioneered a series of Creative Fellowships since 2017. Through the fellowships at Reading and Trinity the rich collection of archival materials mapping Beckett’s creative process are made available to writers and artists, so that Beckett’s archive becomes a practical and inspiring creative workshop. As Beckett Creative Fellows Niamh Campbell and Nathan O’Donnell will produce original creative works that draw on traces and threads of Beckett’s ideas discovered in the archive.

Niamh Campbell won the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award in 2020, and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2021. She has published two novels, This Happy (2020) and We Were Young (2022), a monograph on the writer John McGahern (Sacred Weather, 2019), and short pieces of fiction, non-fiction, academic criticism, and art writing for a number of journals in Ireland.

Niamh Campbell’s project takes as its point of departure notions of transcendent banality, eternal return, ideological and idiomatic limitation, habit and logjam, and compulsive or onanistic personal memory – ideas drawn from the Beckettian universe and important to her own work. The project is especially interested in looking at writerly ‘voice’ and expressive patterning as habitual or recursive phenomena by using recording devices, voice-to-text software, and vocal performances to develop and supplement the work.

Nathan O’Donnell is a writer and artist based in Dublin. He has published fiction and non-fiction in numerous journals including The Dublin Review, gorse, The Tangerine, and 3:AM, amongst others; he is also one of the co-editors of Paper Visual Art and he writes and publishes regularly in the field of contemporary art. He had his first solo exhibition at the Illuminations Gallery, Maynooth University, in 2020; he was writer-in-residence at Maynooth University, 2020–21; and he has also been awarded artist’s commissions – for publishing-based projects – from IMMA, Ormston House, Dublin City Council, the Arts Council, and South Dublin County Council.

Nathan O’Donnell will use this fellowship to develop a project titled ‘under all weathers’, responding to the Beckett archive through a meteorological lens – gathering weather data, meteorological references, and climate metaphors, from across Beckett’s work as well as his letters and other archival sources. O’Donnell is a writer with an interest in experimental publishing; his aim, with this project, is to produce a set of text scores which will be circulated within a pamphlet-style publication.

The Beckett Creative Fellowships at Trinity are coordinated by the School of English in partnership with The Library of Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Long Room Hub, and Trinity Centre for Beckett Studies. This project is a collaboration with the Beckett Creative Fellowships organised by the Samuel Beckett Research Centre at the University of Reading: https://research.reading.ac.uk/beckett/creative-fellowships/.

For further information contact Dr Julie Bates, School of English, Trinity College Dublin: batesju@tcd.ie

Beckett & Japan: A Virtual Seminar Series

Beckett & Japan:

A Virtual Seminar Series

8th & 15th October 2022

This seminar series, presented by the Samuel Beckett Working Group at IFTR and the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s University Belfast, marks 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 of Beckett studies. 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 engagement with Beckett. This seminar series seeks to mark these histories of Beckett’s work in Japanese culture, as well as explore the significance of Japanese thinking and performance practices on our understanding of Beckett. Further seminars are planned for Spring 2023.

Seminar 1

Shigeyama Akira (Noho Theatre Company) & Jonah Salz (Ryukoku University),

Beckett/Japan/Kyogen Resonances in the Noho Theatre Group’s Early Works’

Chair: Yoshiko Takebe

Saturday 8th October, 2022

10.00-11.30am (Dublin/London time) / 6.00-7.30pm (Tokyo time)

Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/beckett-japan-a-virtual-seminar-series-tickets-420159146317 (MS Teams link will be sent after registration)

In this talk, Noho-cofounders Jonah Salz (producer, director) and Akira Shigeyama (actor) will discuss their motivations in producing Beckett in 1981-1982, how the techniques and spirit of traditional Kyogen classic comedy were employed, and the resonances they feel exist between Japanese culture and Beckett’s world. Act Without Words I is Akira’s signature Noho play, performed over 100 times domestically and on tours of Europe and the U.S. Akira’s father Sennojo Shigeyama II performed in Beckett’s Act Without Words I (1985) directed by Akira, and his son was stage assistant, a three-generational participation in the Beckett play that will perhaps continue in the Shigeyama repertoire. 

Seminar 2  

Yoshiko Takebe (Shujitsu University), Michiko Tsushima (University of Tsukuba)

Chaired by Trish McTighe

Saturday 15th October, 2022

10.00-11.30am (Dublin/London time) / 6.00-7.30pm (Tokyo time)

Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/beckett-japan-a-virtual-seminar-series-tickets-420159146317 (MS Teams link will be sent after registration)

Yoshiko Takebe, ‘The Translation of Beckett’s Drama’ 

This presentation analyzes some of the approaches involved in translating Beckett’s drama from the following perspectives: responding to the content of Seminar 1, the talk firstly examines how Japanese Kyogen techniques are adapted to allow audiences to understand the humorous aspects in Beckett’s drama. The presentation focuses secondly on how the essence of Japanese Noh theatre is incorporated into Beckett’s later plays. Moving on from the traditional conventions of Japanese theatre, this talk also scrutinizes a different medium that was used to present Beckett’s drama in the midst of the pandemic. The presentation concludes with considering what it meant to translate his drama during his own lifetime and what significance translation had for him, regardless of whether or not Beckett would have appreciated the combination of interlingual and intersemiotic translations in these Japanese versions of his plays.

Michiko Tsushima, ‘Coming in Touch with the Inner Truth of Life: The Unnamable and Daisetz Suzuki’s “Spiritual Insight”’ 

This talk will discuss Beckett’s experience of writing presented in The Unnamable in light of Daisetz Suzuki’s (1870-1966) understanding of religious experience, especially ‘the awakening of spirituality’. Suzuki, born and educated in Japan, is famous for his introduction of Zen Buddhism to the West. While there was no direct relation between Beckett and Suzuki and they wrote in different linguistic and cultural contexts, they shared something in common. Both Beckett’s experience of artistic creation and Suzuki’s religious experience are based on the negation of language and intellect as well as the attempt to come in touch with the inner truth of life which these cannot grasp. The Unnamable shows that writing for Beckett involves descending to an inner ‘place’ of soul deep within the self. This talk will explore the nature of that ‘place’ and the attunement to the truth of life in this novel by referring to the ideas of ‘no abiding place’ and ‘spiritual insight’ in Zen presented by Suzuki.

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 t.mctighe@qub.ac.uk.

Speaker Biographies

Shigeyama Akira made his stage debut at three years old as a Kyogen classical comedy actor. He is a member of the fourteenth generation Shigeyama Sengoro family in the Okura school, Kyoto. Akira performed the requisite pieces to full mastery studying with his father Sennojo II, a pioneering post-war performer and inter-genre collaborator. Akira performed with his cousins in Hanagata Kyogen and as a producer, created a new genre, “rakugen”(落言) in 2001, featuring collaborations between rakugo storytellers and Kyogen actors. A multi-talented performance artist, following in his father’s footsteps, Akira has written, produced, advised, and directed modern plays and operas around Japan. With frequent tours abroad, including long-term collaborations with commedia dell’arte actors, his goal is a theatre that goes beyond language and borders. He is executive director of the energetic new E9 Theatre and received the Kyoto Prefectural Cultural Prize in 2013.

Akira co-founded the Noho Theatre Group in 1981. With an interest in theatre of the absurd, and attraction to silent film actors like Harold Lloyd, Akira is the featured actor in Noho interpretations of short plays by Beckett including Act Without Words I and II, Rough for Theatre I, Ohio Impromptu, and Catastrophe, W.B. Yeats’ A Pot of Broth, and Hamlet in Ophelia. He portrayed Kandata in a multi-media adaptation of A Spider’s Thread by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Death in Woody Allen’s Death Knocks, and most recently ‘friend’ in Tom Sawyer Paints a Fence (2019). He directed the Japanese language premiere of Rockaby and his father in Krapp’s Last Tape. (http://dojicompany.jp/actor/しげやま あきら )

Prof Jonah Salz co-founded the Noho Theatre Group with Shigeyama to interpret Western texts with classical Japanese Noh and Kyogen techniques and spirits. He has produced and directed forty plays, in Japanese, English, and bilingual versions. These include ten short plays by Beckett, including many Japanese premieres and the world premiere of Quad I and II. Noho performs at studio theatres and Noh stages in Japan, and on frequent overseas tours, including LaMama in New York, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the Avignon Festival.

Salz teaches comparative theatre at the Faculty of International Studies, Ryukoku University, Kyoto. His Ph.D. dissertation at New York University’s Department of Performance Studies concerned the trajectory of Kyogen actors’ ‘roles of passage’. He has published on Noho’s productions, Beckett in Japan, co-edited a special Kyogen issue for the Asian Theatre Journal (2007), and is chief editor of the A History of Japanese Theatre (Cambridge, 2016). https://researchmap.jp/read0099504

Yoshiko Takebe is associate professor in the Translation and Interpreting Course at the Department of Practical English, Shujitsu University in Japan. Her research focuses on the correlation between nonverbal and verbal forms of expressions with respect to drama and theatre. She studied Drama and Theatre in Research at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has worked as a Japanese-English interpreter and translator in Tokyo. Her recent articles on Beckett are ‘Translating Beckett’s Voices in Different Cultures’ in Beckett’s Voices / Voicing Beckett (Eds. Laurens De Vos, Mariko Hori Tanaka, and Nicholas E. Johnson. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2021) and ‘Translating Silence: Correlations between Beckett, Chekhov, and Hirata’ in Influencing Beckett / Beckett Influencing (Eds. Anita Rakoczy, Mariko Hori Tanaka, Nicholas E. Johnson. Budapest/Paris: L’Harmattan Publishing, 2020).

Michiko Tsushima is Professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Tsukuba, Japan. She is the author of The Space of Vacillation: The Experience of Language in Beckett, Blanchot, and Heidegger (Peter Lang, 2003) and Hannah Arendt: Reconciling Ourselves to the World (in Japanese, Hosei University Press, 2016). She has also published a number of articles on modern literature and contemporary thought including articles on Beckett and Arendt. Her articles on Beckett appeared in Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd’huiSamuel Beckett and Pain (Rodopi, 2012) and Samuel Beckett and Trauma (Manchester University Press, 2018) co-edited by Mariko Hori Tanaka and Yoshiki Tajiri.

Beckett International Foundation – 2023 Katharine Worth Travel Bursary

The Beckett International Foundation invites applications for the 2023 Katharine Worth Travel Bursary to visit the Beckett Archive at the University of Reading

Amount of Bursary: £250 [GBP]

Closing Date:  7th November 2022 

Bursary may be used: Anytime in the calendar year of 2023, taking into account University and Special Collections closure times.

The Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading is delighted to invite applications for the Katharine Worth travel bursary to visit the Beckett Archive in UoR’s Special Collections. This bursary is in honour of the renowned Beckett scholar, Professor Katharine Worth, who donated her Beckett archive to the University of Reading.  The archive includes a beautifully detailed maquette by Peter Snow of a version of his stage design for the original 1955 UK premiere of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, directed by Peter Hall.

Applications are invited from any student in part or full-time higher education (undertaking an MA or Ph.D. or equivalent qualification). Interested applicants should submit a CV, and a short essay (max 800 words) outlining their interest in and current work on Samuel Beckett, and stating how a visit to the Beckett Archive at Reading would be beneficial to their studies. Applicants should identify those materials in the archive that would be of most benefit to them. See: http://www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/collections/sc-beckett.aspx

Entry requirements: Applicants must be over 18 and must be in part-time or full-time higher education (undertaking an MA or Ph.D. or equivalent qualification).

Applications, as well as queries, should be sent by email to Dr Mark Nixon (m.nixon@reading.ac.uk)

Professor Katharine Worth 

Professor Katharine Worth was the first female professor of theatre in the United Kingdom and set up the Drama department at Royal Holloway (University of London). She was a leading expert on Beckett’s theatre. Her books include Beckett the Shape Changer (1975) and Samuel Beckett’s Theatre: Life Journeys (1999). Her research combined theory and practice and she worked with distinguished composer Humphrey Searle on a production of Beckett’s radio play Words and Music (1973), and with actor Julian Curry on a stage performance of Beckett’s prose work, Company, directed by Tim Pigott-Smith, in 1987.

The Beckett Collection at the University of Reading

The Beckett Collection held in the University of Reading’s Special Collections is the world’s largest collection of resources relating to Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). It has been recognised as being of national and international importance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The Collection has recently acquired the manuscript notebooks which Beckett prepared when he was writing his first novel, Murphy, and the Beckett archive of acclaimed Beckett actor, Billie Whitelaw.

New Publication: ‘Samuel Beckett’s Legacies in American Fiction’

Dr. James Baxter is delighted to announce the publication of his first full-length monograph, Samuel Beckett’s Legacies in American Fiction, which has been released as part of Palgrave’s series ‘New Interpretations of Beckett in the Twenty First Century.’

Following Beckett’s only trip to the United States for the haphazard production of 1964’s Film, he would offer the sheepish statement that America was ‘somehow not the right country me.’ This uncertain comment would recall a longer history of  American misfires, exemplified by the 1956 premiere of Waiting for Godot in Miami, Florida in which the play was to be clumsily marketed as ‘the laugh hit of two continents.’

Despite these setbacks, Beckett’s work would inspire an especially vigorous response among American authors in the second half of the 20th century. Building on scholarship concerning the international character of Beckett’s literary legacies, this study provides the most sustained account of his influence over American writing, reading Beckett alongside the works of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Paul Auster and Lydia Davis. In particular, Samuel Beckett’s Legacies argues that Beckett’s fiction of exhaustion and lessness played a galvanising, albeit unlikely role, in shaping the freewheeling postmodern style of American writing. Throughout the book, Beckett’s influence is celebrated, disavowed, and collided with in essays, interviews, and (in true postmodern fashion) negotiated within the space of the literary text itself.

At the same time, this study situates Beckett’s textual legacies alongside the parallel story of his American dissemination, spearheaded by Barney Rosset’s Grove Press. While Rosset’s status as a long-standing champion of Beckett is well known, this book provides a special focus on the Grove in-house magazine Evergreen Review, in which the full range of Beckett’s textual production would be packaged alongside the leading edge of American avant-gardism. Beginning life as a late modernist literary review publishing Beckett alongside the likes of Jean Paul Sartre, Eugene Ionesco, and D.H. Lawrence, Evergreen would rapidly transform into a glossy, commercial production—a bellwether for the pornographic and breezy postmodernism of later decades. Together with the individual author studies that comprise this study, Grove and Evergreen would play decisive roles in transforming Beckett into a ‘postmodern icon.’

In addition to this monograph, Dr. James Baxter has published in Textual Practice and contributed a chapter to the volume Pop Beckett: Intersections with Popular Culture. Forthcoming publications include an article on Beckett, masculinity, and American magazines in the ‘Beckett and Gender’ special issue of Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui. His current research contends more broadly with modernist legacies in mass market magazine culture.