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.
Conference Report 2023
The Samuel Beckett Working Group held an online interim meeting in December 2022 during which members presented the development of their research. In addition, the group offered an ECR support session led by Dr Hannah Simpson (for more information, see the report of the interim meeting). In July 2023, the Working Group convened in person at the IFTR’s annual conference hosted by the University of Ghana in Accra.
The yearly conference theme was “Myths, Mythmaking and Performance,” and the working group proposed to explore the following theme: “Samuel Beckett’s Drama and the Undoing of Myths of Empire and Imperialism.” This theme was addressed in the context of England and Ireland, as well as France and the French-speaking world. Other papers dealt with the connection between Beckett’s oeuvre and Taoism, the status of vagrants in Beckett’s drama, the interaction between genres in Beckett’s oeuvre and Beckett studies, as well as the notions of tradition and innovation in contemporary adaptations of Beckett’s texts in Germany. In the post-presentation conversations, the group reflected further on Beckett’s status as an exile writer, the connections between historical situations referenced in the texts and the contemporary world, presence and absence in performance, the geographies of copyright and the status of the boy in Beckett’s drama.
The Working Group is a community that welcomes the presentation of projects and papers at different stages of the research and writing process: testing early ideas and work in progress is encouraged, and we also support the refining of papers at an advanced stage. This year, the working group benefitted from the presence of new members whose primary research is not on Beckett. The expertise that they brought to the reading group from other areas was invaluable, and we hope to collaborate more with scholars beyond Beckett studies in the future, in addition to continuing to foster a strong network of scholars from Beckett Studies, whose expertise facilitates vibrant and rigorous (yet respectful) debates. The presence of attendees from other working groups at each of our sessions was much appreciated. In the coming years, we hope to develop partnerships with other working groups at IFTR to enhance our interdisciplinary engagement within the organisation.
In addition to our classical presentation/Q&A format, we seek to extend our activities towards embodied and creative practice. At this year’s conference, Trish McTighe opened the Working Group with a breathing session, and Céline Thobois-Gupta proposed a communal reading of Ohio Impromptu. Inspired by the Feminist Working Group, we also see an opportunity to connect meaningfully with the performance ecosystems in which the IFTR conferences are hosted by collaborating with a local artist via workshops or conversations for example.
As far as publication is concerned, we are happy to report that the Samuel Beckett and Ecology volume is well underway and scheduled for publication in 2024 with Bloomsbury. Most of the papers presented this year are already promised to publication venues. However, we welcome suggestions from all of our members on themes that matter to them and that they think need to be addressed in Beckett studies for future meetings and publications.
Due to the cost of travel and the lack of funding, several long-standing members as well as new ones could not attend, even though their abstracts had been accepted. Issues related to funding and accessibility have been brought to the organisation’s attention during the conference, and we are committed to finding ways of supporting scholars who are interested in joining the group but could not attend the conference due to aforementioned circumstances. Our next online interim meeting will be announced in the autumn, and we will reconvene in person at the next annual conference, which will take place in Manila (Philippines) in 2024.
- Céline Thobois, August 2022
Conference Reports 2019-2022: https://iftr.org/working-groups/samuel-beckett/reports-2019-2022
Beckett & Ecology, ed. by Trish McTighe, Céline Thobois-Gupta & Nicholas Johnson, Methuen-Bloomsbury, forthcoming in 2024.
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.
Essays, Articles & Chapters: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pJ3DoILVvzPvGVf1quD-00Nkh7s6Rl_u/edit?usp=drive_link&ouid=114931011899508789231&rtpof=true&sd=true
Trish McTighe, Queen's University Belfast, firstname.lastname@example.org
Céline Thobois-Gupta, Trinity College Dublin, 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