Skip to main content
The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 4
  • Cited by
    This (lowercase (translateProductType product.productType)) has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    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.

  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Recommend this book

    Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

    The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett
    • Online ISBN: 9780511607417
    • Book DOI:
    Please enter your name
    Please enter a valid email address
    Who would you like to send this to *
  • Buy the print book

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

Refine List
Actions for selected content:
Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive
  • Send content to

    To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to .

    To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

    Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

    Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

    Please be advised that item(s) you selected are not available.
    You are about to send

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.
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.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 740 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 838 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.