The Samuel Beckett working group, first convened in 1996, meets every 1–2 years at the IFTR conference. The group provides a forum for discussions of current research approaches in Beckett studies undertaken by scholars around the world. It has consistently had a wide range of international participants from Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, and Asia, and encourages new members from other regions as well.
The group sets topics for each meeting, either adopting the theme of the IFTR conference or focusing on a specific play or theory in the hope of eliciting a lively exchange of ideas. Participants' essays are circulated approximately one month prior to the meeting, and at the actual sessions presenters briefly summarize, but do not read, their papers. Group members then discuss each work in detail for at least 30 minutes, asking questions, offering constructive comments and making suggestions for further research. The group has been meeting every year not only at the IFTR conferences but also at submeetings (Southampton and Tokyo in 2012 and Budapest in 2017) since 2010.
The working group touch based online in December 2021 and met in person in June 2022 at the IFTR international congress in Reykjavík (Iceland). At the latter event, the group welcomed new early-career researchers from Asia, Europe and America, but some of the longstanding members could not travel due to their countries’ restrictive travel policies. While this event could not be accommodated in a hybrid format, we hope to work with the organisation to facilitate remote access to the working group when travel is not possible. We recognise the benefits of in-person meetings, and we encourage members to join physically, but we are also deeply aware of the financial, environmental and health restrictions that may impact researchers’ mobility.
The yearly theme “Shifting Centres: In the Middle of Nowhere,” particularly fitting to Beckett’s oeuvre, was explored through the lenses of psychology, psychiatry, phenomenology, technology, philosophy, politics, theatre historiography, modernism/postmodernism, theatre and performance studies and humour studies. Presentations and discussions explored affective and subjective spaces in Beckett’s drama, alongside the spaces of individual and collective memory. Researchers were interested in debating the frequent understanding of Beckettian physical and imaginary spaces as the “nowhere” and in thinking about non-anthropocentric approaches to space in Beckett’s oeuvre, particularly in the contexts of the ecological crisis and in connection with intermediality. Attentive to power dynamics in Beckettian ecosystems, the group reflected on the role of less represented theatre practitioners who had a significant impact on Beckett’s dramaturgies and on the international reception of performances in which site is understood as archive of a particular history.
The working group sessions are closed; nevertheless, we shared our work with the IFTR community at large in two ways. First, some attendees who expressed willingness to attend presentations were welcomed as guest auditors. Second, the working group offered an interdisciplinary public panel which presenting cutting-edge research on Beckett, space and performance and reflected on the geography of the Beckettian stage as well as that of Beckett studies, calling to attention the role of research centres as spaces of attraction and diffraction of knowledge.
After finalising a partnership with Bloomsbury at the IFTR congress itself, we announced the publication of a collection of essays entitled Samuel Beckett and Ecology (forthcoming 2024) that aims at disseminating the research outcomes of (mainly but not exclusively) the working group over the past two years on the theme of ecology and on Beckett’s ecological dramatic practices.
This year marked the end of Trish McTighe’s four-year convening term. The members of group therefore voted to elect the next convening team for another four-year term. Trish McTighe (Queen’s University Belfast) was re-elected, alongside Céline Thobois (Trinity College Dublin). Our endeavour is to organise an interim online meeting in December 2022 with present and past members of the working group. The aim of the session is to provide support to the members of the group in their current research and to update the community on the themes and methodologies explored by the community. While the working group has successfully fostered inclusivity and diversity since its inception, we would like to open our group to a wider community of research and practitioners next year in Accra by inviting presentations both in English and in French.
- Céline Thobois, September 2022
The working group met in July 2021 as part of the Galway IFTR online conference. The extension of the conference theme, Theatre Ecologies, allowed colleagues to deepen and enrich work begun last year looking at notions of the Anthropocene, the environmental aspects of the staging Beckett’s work and its politics of precarity as they manifest and relate to issues of environmental degradation. The productive conversation of our sessions led to new understandings of Beckettian wastelands as ones produced out of human failure and human violence.
We were delighted to mark the publication of two new working group collections this summer edited by past convenors of the group. Congratulations to Anita Rákóczy, Mariko Hori Tanaka, and Nicholas Johnson on the publication of Influencing Beckett, Beckett Influencing (L’Harmattan, 2020) and to Laurens De Vos, Mariko Hori Tanaka, and Nicholas Johnson on the publication of Beckett’s Voices / Voicing Beckett (Brill, 2021).
We were honoured to have Prof Anna McMullan launch Influencing Beckett, Beckett Influencing during the working group sessions. Prof McMullan is a long-time member of the IFTR Samuel Beckett Working Group and has herself recently published a monograph on Beckett and ecology entitled Beckett’s Intermedial Ecosystems (Cambridge, 2021).
We will reconvene in person, it is hoped, at Reykjavik in June 2022.
The working group met online in July 2020; while we had fewer participants than in previous years due to the pandemic, the papers and conversation were no less vibrant for all that. Topics of discussion included Beckett's relation to the Anthropocene, natural ecologies and the ecologies of media and technology that permeate his work. The theme for IFTR 2021, Theatre Ecologies, carries over from 2020, therefore papers are welcome for the working group that respond to this. As with previous years, the working group will also continue to provide an open forum for work dealing with any aspect of Beckett's theatre.
In 2010, we had vibrant gathering in Shanghai. The size of the group permitted us to spend, as is traditional for this group, a significant amount of time on each paper and allowed for deep reading and engagement. Papers produced original perspectives on the topics of ecology and catastrophe, Beckett and pedagogy, and Beckett in translation. We commenced our initial session with questions such as: what ways do artists from around the world translate Beckett’s work into their own contexts? How might we trace the intersections between Asian performance traditions and Beckett’s theatre? And, in what ways do artists experiment with the work, while negotiating a longstanding ‘tradition’ in performing Beckett within urban Anglophone / European contexts? Each of the papers addressed these concerns in very different ways and provoked fascinating discussions about the nature of translation, eco-dramaturgy, and ethics.
One of the strengths of this year’s activities lay in the openness of the group. There were a number of papers delivered across the conference that were Beckett-related, some in general panels, others within other working groups and one within the New Scholars’ Forum. As a group, we attended a number of these talks and invited these speakers to attend our final working group session, which we opened up to all Beckett-interested people. Through this, we gathered some new attendees and members and we were delighted also to make connections with scholars from the Asian Performance Working Group. This open session produced a very stimulating discussion that illuminated the research interests of those in the room and the diversity of cultural contexts in which Beckett is continually animated, as well as pointing toward further publications and projects for the group. New members and old will join us for an interim meeting in Tokyo in December, in advance of our next meeting in Galway.
Beckett’s Voices / Voicing Beckett, ed. by Laurens De Vos, Mariko Hori Tanaka, and Nicholas Johnson, Brill, 2021
This collection offers a wide-ranging treatment of the voice in Beckett; it addresses the voice within a range of media including music, theatre, film and radio as well as engaging with philosophical and psychological investigations of voice and vocality.
Influencing Beckett, Beckett Influencing, ed. by Anita Rákóczy, Mariko Hori Tanaka, Nicholas E. Johnson, L’Harmattan Kiadó, 2020
A compelling collection of essays enriching our understanding of Beckett's cultural inheritance in the twentieth centre.
Drawing on Beckett: Portraits, Performances, and Cultural Perspectives. Ed. Linda Ben-Zvi. Tel Aviv: Assaph Books, 2004.
The book contains twenty-one essays by leading Beckett scholars, as well as twenty-four drawings of Beckett by his friend and noted Israeli painter, Avigdor Arikha.
Beckett at 100: Revolving It All. Edited by Linda Ben-Zvi and Angela Moorjani. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
This collection of twenty-two essays is based on, but not limited to, essays presented at the Trinity College, Dublin centenary celebration in April 2006. The Beckett Working Group was invited to feature in the central academic program where approximately 40 papers were presented.
Trish McTighe: email@example.com
Convenors in the past:
Linda Ben-Zvi founded the Samuel Beckett Working Group at the IFTR meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, in 1996 and convened till the IFTR meeting in Stockholm, 2016. As an honorary convenor, she is supervising new convenors.
The late Julie Campbell convened the IFTR meetings in Osaka, Japan (with Hori Tanaka) in 2011 and in Barcelona in 2013. She also convened a submeeting in Southampton in 2012. A book commemorating her is now in the process of publishing.
Anita Rakoczy organized a submeeting in Budapest, Hungary, in June, 2017. A book compiling the papers delivered at the meeting is now in the process of publishing.
Matthias Korn convened the IFTR meeting in Sao Paolo in July, 2017.
Mariko Hori Tanaka and Nicholas Johnson convened the meeting in Belgrade 2018.
The following is a summary of our interim meeting in which we looked at ways that the working group might best support emerging scholars. Read more
Call for Papers for the Samuel Beckett Working Group at IFTR in Accra, Ghana, 24th-28th July 2023 Read more