Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)

A selective list of online literary criticism for the twentieth-century Irish playwright, poet, and novelist Samuel Beckett, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in peer-reviewed sources

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literary criticism

Atlas, James. "The Prose of Samuel Beckett : Notes from the Terminal Ward." Poetry Nation 2 (1974).

Burrows, Rachel. Interview. Wonderful interview with Rachel Burrows, who experienced Beckett's teaching in the 1930's, on Beckett's tastes and fascinations as a teacher, Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Calder, John. A review of three Beckett plays performed in NYC in 1983 under the direction of Alan Schneider: Ohio Impromptu, Catastrophe, and What Where. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Cohn, Ruby. A Beckett Canon. (U of Michigan P 2001). Preview at Google Books.

Connor, Steven. "Orders of Magnitude," contrasts James Joyce's reach towards omniscience and Beckett's towards ignorance. In The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism (Cambridge UP 2004). Preview at Google Books.

Connor, Steven. On the themes of ground, falling, balance, gravity, and walking in Beckett and the artist Bruce Nauman. Originally in the catalogue of the exhibition "Samuel Beckett, Bruce Nauman," 2000.

Connor, Steven. "'Traduttore, traditore': Samuel Beckett's Translation of Mercier and Camier." Connor examines the French and English versions of Mercier and Camier to demonstrate that Beckett's self-translations are not always identical twins. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Cronin, Anthony. The first chapter of Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, (1997), with a link to a review by Morris Dickstein. NY Times [requires registration].

Davies, Paul. An introduction to Samuel Beckett from the Literary Encyclopedia, 8 January 2001 [subscription service].

Dearlove, J.E. "The Weaving of Penelope's Tapestry," Beckett's works, rather than breaking down genre, are dependent on the reader's expectations about genre. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Doll, Mary. "The Demeter Myth in Beckett." Contends that Beckett's use of myth has been little explored, and examines the role of the myth of Demeter in his writing. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Esslin, Martin. "What Beckett Teaches Me: His Minimalist Approach to Ethics." Beckett in the 1990s (Rodopi, 1993). At Google Books.

Fitch, Brian. "The Status of the Second Version of the Beckettian Text: The Evidence of the 'Bing/Ping' Manuscripts." On the historical evolution of each of the Bing/Ping texts. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Gigante, Denise. "The Endgame of Taste: Keats, Sartre, Beckett." Romanticism On the Net 24 (November 2001).

Guest, Michael. "'Between Contiguous Extremes': Beckett and Brunonian Minimalism, with reference to The Lost Ones." On paradigms for Beckett in Giambattista Vico and Giordano Bruno. Reports of the Faculty of Liberal Arts (1994).

Guest, Michael. "Act of Creation in Beckett's Catastrophe." A reading of Catastrophethat focuses on the theme of aesthetic creation, tracing the dramatic means by which Beckett configures a tragicomic theatrical metaphor for the production of meaning in general - a metaphor in which the coincidence of tragic catastrophe becomes identified with miraculous creation as the comic pole. Reports of the Faculty of Liberal Arts, 1995.

Guest, Michael. "Beckett and Foucault: Some Affinities." On how Beckett dramatizes ideas also found in Foucault. Central Japan English Studies, English Literary Society of Japan (1996).

Hammond, B. S. "Beckett and Pinter: Towards a grammar of the absurd." Journal of Beckett Studies 4 (Spring 1979).

Higdon, David Leon. "Samuel Beckett in Outer Space." Discusses Starswarm (1985), a parody of Beckett by Brian Aldiss. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Hornung, Alfred. "Fantasies of an Autobiographical Self: Thomas Bernhard, Raymond Federman, Samuel Beckett." Discusses the trend towards autobiographical writing in contemporary American and European fiction, with its simultaneous nostalgia for and denial of coherence, as exemplified in Beckett and two other writers. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Klein, Herbert G. "The Wonderful World of the Dead: A Typology of the Posthumous Narrative." Discusses works by Beckett, Mary Shelley, Muriel Spark. EESE March, 2002.

Knowlson, James. A review of Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (Simon & Schuster, 1996) "A magnificent biography" by a leading authority, which benefits from five months of revealing interviews with Beckett shortly before his death. NY Times, 24 Nov. 1996.

Krance, Charles. "Review Essay: Sam w Polsce/Sam in Poland." Article describes the significant amount of critical attention given to Samuel Beckett's work by Polish scholars. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Libera, Antoni. "Some Remarks on a Sentence in 'Piece of Monologue.'" Brief article discusses the Polish translation of the sentence "Parts lips and thrusts tongue forward. Birth." Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Marculescu, Ileana. "Beckett and the Temptation of Solipsism," on Beckett's exploration of the philosophical notion of solipsism, not as a theme, but a proposition to be played with and ultimately deconstructed. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

McCue, Jim. A review of No Author Served Better: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider, ed. Maurice Harmon (Harvard UP). The New Statesman 29 Jan. 1999.

Mitchell, Breon. Reviews of special Beckett issues in College Literature (1981), Additional articles on a special Beckett issue of the Irish University Review (1984), reviewed by Nicholas Zurbrugg. Also a review of The Shape of Paradox by Bert 0. States (1982), and A Samuel Beckett Reader ed. John Calder (1984), reviewed by Dougald McMillan. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Parks, Tim. "Beckett: Still Stirring," a lengthy article on Beckett and a round-up review of books on him, 13 July 2006.

Perloff, Marjorie. "The Silence That Is Not Silence: Acoustic Art In Samuel Beckett's Embers." A long article by critic Marjorie Perloff on Beckett's radio art as "abstract and mediumistic, engaging in a dialectic of disclosure and obstacle, information and noise, in which the soundscape -- which includes silence-- provides conflicting, and hence tantalizing, testimony." Perloff explains how this dialectic works in Embers, "in what I take to be, in Hugh Kenner's words, 'the most original use to which Beckett has put radio, and one is tempted to say as original and moving a use of any to which radio has been put.'" In Samuel Beckett and the Visual Arts, (Garland, 1998).

Perloff, Marjorie. "'In Love with Hiding': Samuel Beckett's War." Iowa Review 35, 2 (2005).

Puchner, H. Martin. "Textual Cinema and Cinematic Text: The Ekphrasis of Movement in Adam Thorpe and Samuel Beckett," EESE Jan., 1999.

Rabinovitz, Rubin. "Beckett and Psychology." Considers the various psychological critics of Samuel Beckett and the limitations of psychological theory when applied to Beckett. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Ricks, Christopher. "Deranged Punctilio." A talk presented at a PEN Twentieth-Century Masters Tribute to Samuel Beckett.

Rojtman, Betty. "Une Structure D'Agression: Dis Joe," Contends that "Dis Joe depasse l'enjeu d'une simple 'piece ecrit pour la television' en ce qu'elle figure, par ca structure visuelle meme, en sens dramatique a communiquer." Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

Taylor, Neil and Bryan Loughrey. "Murphy's Surrender to Symmetry." In Murphy Beckett uses the game of chess to explore the tension between the mathematical and symmetrical, and the organic and asymmetrical, say the authors. Journal of Beckett Studies 1989.

The Journal of Beckett Studies formerly edited by S. E. Gontarski and published by the Florida State U English Dept., generously provides links to full-text articles indexed here, and is an up-to-date source for events in the world of Beckett Studies. Now at Univ. of Western Sidney, Australia under the general editorship of Anthony Uhlmann.


An extended introduction to Samuel Beckett includes list of works and a secondary reading list, from the Poetry Foundation.

Samuel Beckett's obituary, NY Times, 1989.

"Beckett Wins Nobel for Literature," 1969 news article NYTimes.

Waiting for Godot. The NY Times review of the first American performance, 1956.

Endgame. The NY Times review of the first American performance, 1958.

"Knowing me, knowing you." Novelist Keith Ridgway explains why he likes Beckett's Mercier and Camier. The Guardian, July 19, 2003.

A 1981 NY Times account of a Paris meeting with Samuel Beckett, who refused to give interviews.

Additional reviews and articles for Samuel Beckett from the NY Times.

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