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Samuel Beckett: Studies in Form and Medium
Samuel Beckett towers over the post-World-War II literary scene of Europe the way his fellow Irishman James Joyce did between the wars. Beckett’s work transformed the economy of the literary arts. This seminar will provide a comprehensive account of Beckett as the last classic: we’ll read/see/hear a representative selection of works for the page (prose fiction and poems), stage, screen, and radio. We’ll study how Beckett played with the fundamental means and materials of each genre he worked in; how he pushed and/or shrunk the limits of traditional forms; how he altered language and aesthetics; how he probed and redefined the grounds of being human. Our aim is to develop an overall sense of the shape of Beckett's career and the scope of his aesthetic experimentation. This is a 400-level seminar so expect tough challenges and independent research. Texts and materials: Murphy*; Watt*; Collected Shorter Plays; The Complete Short Prose; Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies. The Unnamable. Company. You can purchase any new/used edn of Godot and Endgame; Krapp is included in Collected Shorter Plays; and so are the short pieces listed in the schedule below. (* Murphy and Watt are indispensable to the serious student of Beckett, and a delight to any serious reader of modern experimental prose fiction; however, both novels will be listed as optional at the UBookstore because we’ll look at a few excerpts from them only.) Audio: Beckett Festival of Radio Plays (some of that can be downloaded: I’ll give you links). NB: a substantial portion of class time will be spent watching and/or listening to unique video/audio materials, so attendance is absolutely essential; you must also read all video/audio materials (in Beckett's Collected Shorter Plays) but it's up to you when to read the respective pieces, i.e., before or immediately after the video/audio show.
Requirements: Patience, participation, several short assignments, reading journal, term paper (8-10 pages) or final (to be determined).
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF MEETINGS
This schedule does not follow the chronology of Beckett’s work. We’ll deal with his work in the theater first, to allow students more time to read the longer prose works.
Week One Introduction: beginnings and ends. Silence to Silence, Rockaby
Waiting for Godot
Week Two Godot, cont.
Week Three Endgame; Krapp’s Last Tape
Week 4 O Happy Days, Not I
Week 5 Film; Eh Joe; Embers, Cascando;
Play; That Time; Footfalls; Ohio Impromptu
Week 6 Murphy (excerpts); Watt (excerpts)
Stories: Belaqua and the Lobster; First Love; The End
Week 7 Texts for Nothing (excerpts); Imagination Dead Imagine; Ping
Week 8 Molloy
Week 9 Malone Dies, the Unnamable
Week 10 Company