Call for Papers • Tennessee Philological Association Conference,  23-25 February 2017
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TPA Panel: Samuel Beckett’s Bodies of Water. Design: Rhys Tranter
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Samuel Beckett

In Samuel Beckett’s canon, water is a recurring image. In his radio play, Embers, the protagonist Henry tells us that he is sitting by the ocean, in his stage play Endgame Nagg and Nell remember nearly drowning in Lake Como, and in his tour de force stage and later television play, Not I Mouth refers to the narrative gushing from her mouth as a “steady stream.” Water in these and other works by the Nobel Prize winning author is both a location and a metaphor; it is aligned with happy memories and danger, with transition and stasis, with the beginning and the end.

Professor Katherine Weiss is seeking scholars interested in exploring the images of bodies of water in Beckett’s canon to be considered for a panel proposal to the 2017 Tennessee Philological Association Conference to be held in Johnson City, TN during 23-25 February 2017. For more about TPA, visit their website.

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words. To submit, please email Professor Katherine Weiss weisk01@etsu.edu with your abstract by 7 November 2016.

Why critics of the Nobel Committee’s nomination are missing the point
Bob Dylan in the 1960s.
Bob Dylan in the 1960s.

On 13 October, I was surprised and delighted to hear that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Nobel Committee selected Dylan ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’. Few would question the songwriter’s contribution to the cultural landscape of the twentieth-century. His albums for Columbia Records in the 1960s document a deep knowledge and respect for American folk music, blues music, and poetry; Dylan adapted and reworked these forms to forge a compelling picaresque of the post-war American landscape.

“[…] literature, when traced back to its earliest forms, began as a poetic oral tradition frequently linked to rhythm, music, and song.”

There have been some who have responded to Dylan’s Nobel nomination with dismay, even anger. Some cite that his status as a songwriter might justify a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but is not a ticket into the literary canon. Such detractors often fail to acknowledge that in addition to his music, Bob Dylan has also published poetry, experimental prose, and even a memoir. That’s to say nothing of his influence on countless more traditional literary figures. But this kind of categorization seems to miss the point. Those who reject Dylan’s candidacy for the Nobel forget that literature, when traced back to its earliest forms, began as a poetic oral tradition frequently linked to rhythm, music, and song. (more…)

A new title refines and condenses more than a decade of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s thinking on Beckett

Jean-Michel Rabaté , Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human (Fordham University Press, 2016)
Jean-Michel Rabaté , Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human (Fordham University Press, 2016)
Glancing at the title of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s excellent new book, you might be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of self-help manual from the shelf of tough love. The author clears up any confusion: “This is not a self-help book”, he writes; rather it undermines such projects of affirmation by “questioning the humanism that we take for granted”. Through the motif of the “animal”, Samuel Beckett’s prose and drama re-examines what it means to be human in the aftermath of the Second World War. Think, Pig! (Pozzo’s demoralizing order to Lucky in Waiting for Godot) refines and condenses more than a decade of Rabaté’s thinking on Beckett. The book’s focus is ethical and interrogative, but is peppered with a lively and inventive sense of humour. [Read More]

This extract is from my review of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human, published in the Times Literary Supplement, 14 October 2016.

An article for NYC’s Lincoln Center exploring the writer’s presence on social media
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@SamuelBBeckett: An online resource for quotes, photographs, news, and events

Samuel Beckett is on Twitter, and perhaps we should not be surprised. As a playwright, he was what we would now call an “early adopter” of modern technology. His 1958 play Krapp’s Last Tape made revolutionary use of the reel-to-reel tape recorder the same year RCA manufactured full-size cassettes for home use. His works for radio and television—including All That Fall, which is being presented as part of the 2016 White Light Festival—stretched each medium to their technical limits, producing sights and sounds that had never before been broadcast. And it’s not just his engagement with technology that makes Beckett a natural candidate for Twitter: his compact observations and incisive remarks are perfectly trimmed for our social media age.

Beckett always had a talent for pithy observations about birth, death, and all the pesky stuff that happens in between. In 1984, when The Times (London) asked him about his New Year’s resolutions, he replied: “resolutions colon zero stop period hopes colon zero stop beckett.” His short, sharp telegram cuts to the quick, but also makes us smile at our own obsession with self-improvement. This is the kind of wit and economy that became his signature in plays like Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Happy Days. [Read More]

This is an excerpt from an article entitled ‘@SamuelBBeckett: Tweets for Everyday Life’, published by New York City’s Lincoln Center.

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Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts

This is the seventh in a weekly series that brings together the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that has caught my eye over the past seven days. Including: Stanley Kubrick’s annotated copy of Stephen King’s The Shining; a review of the new Angela Carter biography by Edmund Gordon; and why the Hallmark Card company owns thousands of priceless artworks. Take a look, and feel free to share! (more…)

Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts

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This is the sixth in a weekly series that brings together the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that has caught my eye over the past seven days. Including: H. R. Giger’s artwork for Frank Herbert’s Dune; an two-part interview about the letters of Samuel Beckett; and the total figure that Truman Capote’s ashes raised at auction. Take a look, and feel free to share! (more…)

Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts

This is the fifth in a new weekly series that brings together the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that has caught my eye over the past seven days. Including: Thelonious Monk’s tips for playing a gig; a free course on creative writing from William Burroughs; and a review of the first authorised biography of Angela Carter. Take a look, and feel free to share! (more…)

I caught up with Katie Gramich to talk about a conference she is co-organizing to celebrate the life and work of poet Edward Thomas

In April 2017, Cardiff University will be hosting a conference to celebrate the Welsh writer Edward Thomas. Can you say a little bit about the timing of the conference? Do you think it’s time for a revaluation of Thomas’ life and work?

Edward Thomas died in the Battle of Arras at Easter 1917, so the conference at Cardiff University in April 2017 is a centenary conference to commemorate a distinctive and unusual writer whose life was cut short in the First World War. Thomas wrote all of his poetry in the last two years of his life – between December 1914 and December 1916 – prompted to do so partly by his friendship with the American poet, Robert Frost, whom he met in the summer of 1913,  and partly by the new and pressing circumstances of the war. It is so sad to think that only six of his poems were published in his lifetime – a small pamphlet under the pseudonym ‘Edward Eastaway’ in 1916. (more…)