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The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett
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    Johnson, Steven 2013. It Must Mean Something: Narrative in Beckett'sMolloyand Feldman'sTriadic Memories. Contemporary Music Review, Vol. 32, Issue. 6, p. 639.

    Cohen, Robert 2011. Pozzo's Knook, Beckett's Boys, and Santa Claus. Modern Drama, Vol. 54, Issue. 2, p. 181.

    2008. LIST OF BOOKS RECEIVED AS OF 14 DECEMBER 2007. Theatre Survey, Vol. 49, Issue. 01, p. 171.

    2007. LIST OF BOOKS RECEIVED AS OF 11 MAY 2007. Theatre Survey, Vol. 48, Issue. 02, p. 395.

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Book description

This is an eloquent and accessible introduction to one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. This book provides biographical and contextual information, but more fundamentally, it also considers how we might think about an enduringly difficult and experimental novelist and playwright who often challenges the very concepts of meaning and interpretation. It deals with his life, intellectual and cultural background, plays, prose, and critical response and relates Beckett's work and vision to the culture and context from which he wrote. McDonald provides a sustained analysis of the major plays, including Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Happy Days and his major prose works including Murphy, Watt and his famous 'trilogy' of novels (Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable). This introduction concludes by mapping the huge terrain of criticism Beckett's work has prompted, and it explains the turn in recent years to understanding Beckett within his historical context.


'… it is an excellent book: it does exactly what it says on the tin. … The greatest strength of the book is in McDonald's ability to articulate a shapely overview while maintaining a sharp sense of the distinctions …'

Source: Irish Studies Review

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Guide to further reading
Guide to further reading
Brater Enoch. Why Beckett. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. A brief introductory literary biography with extensive illustrations.
Cronin Anthony. Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist. London: HarperCollins, 1996. Eloquently written and informative. Especially strong on Beckett's Irish background.
Gordon Lois. The World of Samuel Beckett 1906–1946. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. Emphasises the historical context of Beckett's artistic genesis.
Harmon Maurice (ed.). No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 1998. Beckett's correspondence with his American director. The first full-book publication of Beckett's letters. Excludes any material not directly related to the work.
Knowlson James. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. London: Bloomsbury, 1996. The authorised biography. Comprehensive and indispensable.
Federman Raymond and Fletcher John. Samuel Beckett: His Works and His Critics. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1970. A pioneering survey of the first generation of Beckett criticism.
Murphy P. J. et. al. Critique of Beckett Criticism: A Guide to Research in English, French and German. Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1994. Formidable and comprehensive. Gives an evaluative history of Beckett criticism. Includes a year-by-year bibliography.
Oppenheim Lois (ed.). Palgrave Advances in Samuel Beckett Studies. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. A collection of thematic essays by leading Beckettians summarising and evaluating various critical trends.
Critical and Scholarly Studies
Abbott H. Porter. Beckett Writing Beckett: The Author in the Autograph. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996. Elaborates a theory of ‘autography’, a mode of writing which generates selfhood between autobiography and fiction.
Acheson James and Arthur Kateryna (eds.). Beckett's Later Fiction and Drama: Texts for Company. London: Macmillan, 1987. Useful collection of essays on the later works.
Alvarez A.Samuel Beckett. London: Fontana, 1973. Part of the Fontana Modern Masters series. Well-written introduction.
Baker Phil. Samuel Beckett and the Mythology of Psychoanalysis. London: Macmillan, 1997. Historically locates the psychoanalytical influences on Beckett.
Barge Laura. God, the Quest, the Hero: Thematic Structures in Beckett's Fiction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988. Traces the ‘God-idea’ as thematic and structural influence. Especially notable on Gnostic and Manichaean dimensions.
Begam Richard. Samuel Beckett and the End of Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. Historically situates the debate about Beckett's position in modernity and postmodernity.
Ben-Zvi Linda. Samuel Beckett. Boston: Twayne, 1986. An introductory survey covering all the work.
Bradby David. Beckett: ‘Waiting for Godot’. Plays in Production. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Part of an innovative series looking at the history of production of key plays.
Brater Enoch. Beyond Minimalism: Beckett's Late Style in the Theatre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Brater EnochThe Drama in the Text: Beckett's Late Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Both key studies of the later works.
Bryden Mary. Women in Samuel Beckett's Fiction and Drama: Her Own Other. London: Macmillan, 1993. Theoretical investigation of representations of women in Beckett.
Bryden MarySamuel Beckett and the Idea of God. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998. A judicious assessment of religious overtones and their significance.
Cohn Ruby. A Beckett Canon. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. An indispensable and learned overview of the entire Beckett corpus, across all genres, drawing on a lifetime's scholarship. Cohn has published vastly on Beckett for over forty years.
Connor Steven (ed.). Samuel Beckett: Repetition, Theory and Text. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992. An important contribution to Beckett and post-structuralism, focusing on the function of repetition in Beckett's work.
Connor Steven‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Endgame’. New Casebooks. New York: St Martin's Press, 1992. Brings together eleven theoretically informed essays.
Doll Mary. Beckett and Myth: An Archetypal Approach. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988. A Jungian reading strongly informed by postmodern theory.
Esslin Martin (ed.). Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965. A highly influential early collection of critical essays.
Fletcher John. Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, Krapp's Last Tape and Endgame. London: Faber and Faber, 2000. A useful annotated commentary on these three major plays.
Friedman Alan et al. (eds.). Beckett Translating/Translating Beckett. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 1987. Collection of essays on the important topic of translation.
Gontarski S. E.The Intent of Undoing in Samuel Beckett's Dramatic Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. A key scholarly work on the evolution of Beckett's dramatic manuscripts.
Graver Lawrence and Federman Raymond (eds.). Samuel Beckett: The Critical Heritage. London, Henley and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979. A very useful anthology of contemporary reviews and criticism of Beckett's works, including reproductions of some of his rare interviews.
Harrington John P.The Irish Beckett. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1991. One of the few full-length treatments of the Irish allusions especially in the early prose.
Harvey Lawrence. Samuel Beckett: Poet and Critic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970. A key text in Beckett criticism, not least because of the unusual cooperation given by Beckett himself. The extended treatment of Beckett's poetry especially valuable.
Hesla David. The Shape of Chaos: An Interpretation of the Art of Samuel Beckett. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971. An in-depth philosophical study.
Kalb Jonathan. Beckett in Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Addresses Beckett's plays from the point of view of staging and performance, drawing on personal experience as a director and several interviews with theatre professionals.
Kenner Hugh. Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study. London: John Calder, 1962. Possibly the most influential early study, especially on the Cartesian influences on Beckett. Well written and still engaging.
Knowlson James. Light and Darkness in the Theatre of Samuel Beckett. London: Turret Books, 1972. Treats dualism and the Manichaean dimension.
Knowlson James and McMillan Dougald (ed.). Happy Days: The Production Notebook of Samuel Beckett. London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1985. A precursor to the series of theatrical notebooks published under Knowlson's general editorship.
Knowlson James and Pilling John. Frescoes of the Skull: The Later Prose and Drama of Samuel Beckett. London: John Calder, 1979. Pioneering study of the later Beckett, with some treatment of earlier, then unpublished works like Eleutheria.
Knowlson James and McMillan Dougald (eds.). The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett, vol. I: Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber, 1994. Part of a valuable series publishing and annotating the various production notebooks Beckett kept while directing his plays. See also vol. III on Krapp's Last Tape, 1992. S. E. Gontarski edited vol. II: Endgame, 1992 and vol. IV: The Shorter Plays, 1999.
Locatelli Carla. Unwording the Word: Samuel Beckett's Prose Works after the Nobel Prize. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1990. Challenging analysis of semiotics and representation in Beckett, influenced by deconstruction.
McMillan Dougald and Fehsenfeld Martha. Beckett in the Theatre, vol. I: The Author as Practical Playwright and Director. London: John Calder, 1988. Rigorous account of Beckett's practice in the theatre.
McMullan Anna. Theatre on Trial: Samuel Beckett's Later Drama. London: Routledge, 1993. Very useful study of Beckett's later drama informed by various critical theories.
Murphy P. J.Reconstructing Beckett: Language for Being in Samuel Beckett's Fiction. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1990. Challenges orthodox critical understanding by positing a complex ‘realism’ and moral seriousness in Beckett's prose. Detailed and enlightening on post-trilogy prose.
O'Brien Eoin. The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett's Ireland. Dublin: Black Cat Press, 1992. A collection of photographs of the Irish landscape that inspired many of Beckett's works. Introduction by James Knowlson.
Oppenheim Lois. The Painted Word: Beckett's Dialogue With Art. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. Deals with Beckett's relationship with visual arts and his general intellectual context.
Oppenheim Lois (ed.). Samuel Beckett and the Arts: Music, Visual Arts and Non-Print Media. New York: Garland, 1998. A pioneering collection of essays in this important field.
Pilling John. Samuel Beckett. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976. Especially good on the cultural and intellectual contexts.
Pilling JohnBeckett Before Godot: The Formative Years, 1929–1946. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Authoritative and learned treatment of Beckett's early work and influences.
Pilling John (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. A useful collection of essays on various aspects of Beckett's work. Treats the whole oeuvre.
Pountney, Rosemary. Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Beckett's Drama 1956–76 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe; Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes and Noble, 1988). A judicious, scholarly and thorough investigation of the drama of this period with rich use of manuscript material.
Ricks Christopher. Beckett's Dying Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Based on his 1990 Clarendon lectures delivered at Oxford University, Ricks argues that Beckett's works are marked by a longing for death and oblivion.
States Bert O.The Shape of Paradox: An Essay on Waiting for Godot. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. Excellent formalist reading of the play, alert to the Edenic overtones.
Sussman Henry and Devenney Christopher (eds.). Engagement and Indifference: Beckett and the Political. New York: State University of New York Press, 2001. An edited collection which looks at the political and ethical dimensions to Beckett from a variety of critical approaches.
Trezise Thomas. Into the Breach: Samuel Beckett and the Ends of Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Early deconstructive study refuting the phenomenological bias of earlier criticism.
Uhlmann Anthony. Beckett and Poststructuralism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Draws on French philosophers including Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari.
Watson David. Paradox and Desire in Samuel Beckett's Fiction. London: Macmillan, 1991. Draws on Lacanian theory and post-structuralism.
Worth Katherine. Samuel Beckett's Theatre: Life-Journeys. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. A highly readable, personal account of working on Beckett from a scholar who has also directed Beckett's plays in the theatre.
Zilliacus Clas. Beckett and Broadcasting: A Study of the Works of Samuel Beckett for and in Radio and Television. Åbo Akademi, 1976. Authoritative and scholarly treatment of Beckett's work in radio and television.


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