What Is the Word: Celebrating Samuel Beckett

  • November 7 – 8, 2019

This two-day colloquium is devoted to the writings of Samuel Beckett, with presentations, performances and workshops bringing traditional humanistic scholarship into conversation with creative writing, translation, performance, pedagogy, library exhibits, digital humanities initiatives, and epistolary writing.

This year marks both the 50th anniversary of Beckett’s Nobel Prize and the 30th anniversary of his death. As Washington University’s Modern Literature Collection is home to one of the premier collections of Samuel Beckett materials, we have a unique opportunity to showcase and explore the oeuvre and impact of Beckett’s work in literature, theater and translation.

The colloquium is being held in conjunction with the exhibition in Olin Library, Connecting Contexts: the Modern Literature Collection and The Letters of Samuel Beckett, a collaborative effort that brings together two important resources on Beckett studies. A digital version of the exhibition is coming soon.

Session Abstracts & Presenter Bios

PLEASE NOTE: Registration for the colloquium sessions are now closed, but walk-ins are welcome.

Colloquium Schedule

Thursday, November 7

The Chinese Translation of Samuel Beckett: A Critical History
1:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Room 142
Bo Cao, professor of English language and literature at the College of Foreign Studies, Hunan Normal University, Hunan Province, China, traces the changes in reception to the work of Beckett in China, from the 1960s to the present day.

Self – Translation – Poetry: A Roundtable Talk
2:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Mendle Room
Matthias Göritz, professor of practice of comparative literature at Washington University, leads his graduate students in a discussion of Beckett’s poetry and their own translations of Beckett’s poems. Participants include Katja Perat, Karlis Verdins, and Xuela Zhang.

Beckett’s German Fever: A Journey Through Beckett’s Encounters in Germany
3:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Mendle Room
Matthias Göritz offers a hybrid text, sometimes a long poem, sometimes an essay, exploring Beckett’s long-lasting love affair with German literature and culture, his travels through Germany between 1928 and 1937, at first incented by a love affair with his cousin Peggy Sinclair. The hybrid form is meant as a comment on Beckett’s multilingual approach and will include some of Göritz’s recent translations of Beckett’s poems. 

Refreshments provided starting at 3:30 in Room 142.

Film Screening (in 16 mm film format)
4:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Room 142
Erin Finneran, senior lecturer in modern Irish and English literature at Washington University, gives an introduction prior to the screening of Beckett’s only film, titled Film, released in 1964 and starring Buster Keaton. Finneran also leads a discussion following the film.

The French Language and Its Esthetic of Disembodiment in the Trilogy
5:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Room 142
Nadia Louar, associate professor of French at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, discusses Beckett’s three groundbreaking, postwar novels, Molloy, Malone Meurt, and L’Innommable.

“The Conscious Inexistence / L’existence inconsciente”: Students Recite Beckett in Translation (French, English, and Chinese)
6:00 p.m. | Mallinckrodt Center, Room 101
Washington University undergraduates recite selections of Beckett’s work in three languages, incorporating light and dark, sound and silence. Organized by Washington University student Laura Wang and by Elizabeth Allen, teaching professor in French at Washington University.

Session Abstracts & Presenter Bios

Friday, November 8

Decoding Critical Secrets in the Beckett Archive
1:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Room 142
Christian Jacobs, French teacher and world languages chair at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, highlights the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, an international collaboration that creates “genetic” editions of Beckett’s works. He also discusses the unique factors that distinguish Beckett in the field of genetic criticism, and how manuscript study and the nature of this work, especially in the context of Samuel Beckett, dramatically altered Jacobs’ personal and professional trajectory in life.

“Wild and Unintelligible”: Making Sense of Beckett’s ‘unreadable’ Watt
2:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Room 142
Anna Teekell, assistant professor, Department of English, Christopher Newport University, tells the story behind the writing and publication of Watt, the novel Beckett wrote during his time in the French Resistance and in hiding, during World War II.

Concurrent small group workshops and tours (3:00 p.m.):

The Chinese Translation of a Samuel Beckett Letter
3:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Mendle Room
Bo Cao using one letter as an example, leads a discussion on the intricacies and challenges of translating an author’s correspondence, versus their published work.

Rationale and Demonstration of the Location Register and Linked Data Project of The Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives: A User’s Guide
3:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Room 142
Lois Overbeck, co-editor of The Letters of Samuel Beckett and director of The Letters of Samuel Beckett Project at Emory University, leads this demonstration.

Concurrent group workshops and tours (4:00 p.m.):

Connecting Contexts: Exhibit Viewing
4:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Ginkgo Room/Special Collections Reading Room
Joel Minor, curator of the Modern Literature Collection and Kyle Young, graduate student in Romance Languages and Literatures, lead informal tours of the Beckett exhibits in Olin Library.

Nohow On:  Beckett in the Classroom
4:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Mendle Room
Erin Finneran leads a workshop that explores ways to break down potential barriers to teaching Beckett’s life and work.

Refreshments provided starting at 4:30 in Room 142.

Archival Re-membering: The Letters of Samuel Beckett
5:00 p.m. | Olin Library, Room 142
Lois Overbeck, co-editor of The Letters of Samuel Beckett and director of The Letters of Samuel Beckett Project at Emory University, discusses the evolution of the four-volume edition of Beckett’s correspondence and its ongoing mission online.

Krapp’s Last Tape Performance
6:00 p.m. | Mallinckrodt Center, Room 101
Robert Henke, professor of drama and comparative literature, Washington University, performs Beckett’s celebrated one-act, one-man play, from 1958. Followed by Q&A discussion.

Closing Reception
7:00 p.m. | Mallinckrodt Center, Third Floor

Register for the Performance & Reception

Please note: Books will be for sale by the Campus Store on the 2nd floor of Mallinckrodt Center, before, during and after the performance and closing reception.

Related Events November 9 & 10

November 9
Krapp’s Last Tape
Performance

6:00 p.m. | Mallinckrodt Center, Room 101
Robert Henke, professor of drama and comparative literature, Washington University, will perform Beckett’s celebrated one-act, one-man play, from 1958. Followed by Q&A discussion.

Registration

November 10
Krapp’s Last Tape Performance
2:00 p.m. | Mallinckrodt Center, Room 101
Robert Henke, professor of drama and comparative literature, Washington University, will perform Beckett’s celebrated one-act, one-man play, from 1958. Followed by Q&A discussion.

Registration

Sponsors

In addition to the University Libraries, the colloquium is co-sponsored by Washington University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Department of English, the Center for Humanities, and the Performing Arts Department.