From his early novels and plays on, Samuel Beckett explored and questioned the fundamental parameters of literary textuality by thwarting expectations of coherence of plot, character and setting. Instead of representing a particular world, his texts point to and deconstruct the conventional constituents of specific literary genres and of literary representation in general. In his later works, this anti-representational impetus shifts more and more to an investigation of the medial parameters of different artistic forms. His aesthetics of minimalism creates ‘texts’ that focus on the internal limits of medial representation by a progressive reduction to the bare minimums of the corresponding media while confronting these with assumptions about the place of the human within the work of art. This interrogation is performed in a variety of different media, experimenting in particular with the different senses in human perception.
This course will concentrate on these later ‘texts’, their forms of medial deconstruction and exhaustion, as well as their meta-poetic functions and anthropological implications. Our readings will range from the short prose texts and their disruptions of linguistic sense making, via such experiments in theatrical performativity as Footfalls with its dissociation of the seen and the heard, to the radio plays and Film, which single out voice and vision, respectively. Our discussion of Beckett’s work will be complemented and informed by approaches to media theory and intermediality.