Beckett Studies beyond ‘the normal’
3rd Annual Conference of the Samuel Beckett Society
Saint Mary’s University
Halifax, Nova Scotia
July 27-29, 2017

How might we account for the enduring oddness of Samuel Beckett’s work: its eccentric relationship to the normal? What can queer theory or disability theory, to take only two examples, bring to our ongoing re-evaluations of Beckett’s achievements? Are we still witnessing what Peter Boxall, in 2004, termed ‘an extraordinary instance of mass denial’ in relation to the queerness, the sustained homoerotic charge, of Beckett’s work? Given the extraordinary debility of Beckett’s post-War characters, what might we learn from the recent theoretical work of scholars like Ato Quayson, Robert McRuer and Eli Clare, on representations of disability? Is there a normative reading of Beckett from which such emphases have been occluded? And is the relative absence of such interest in Beckett Studies to be explained by a preference for Western philosophical frameworks: a post-Cartesian abdication of corporeality and its discontents per se? Might a biopolitical Beckett be retrieved from such a tradition, i.e. might we read the queerness of Beckett’s vision as conceived in relation to the State, or Agamben’s states of exception? Why has there been no sustained examination of Beckett in relation to the work of Michel Foucault, for example? In this context, might Beckett’s experiences of the State project in postcolonial Ireland—where the ‘normal’ and the ‘national’ were deemed synonymous— be relevant? And how might all of this have changed, or been exasperated, in the light of Beckett’s experiences during World War II: his experience of Vichy France, the Holocaust, and its aftermath? What about Beckett and social norms: his relentless assault on the categories of decency, property and propriety? Might this have informed his refusal of the norms of literary expression—in terms of style, grammar, form, plot?


Papers are invited that address all aspects of this theme, broadly conceived, including (but not limited to):

  • Queer Beckett/normative Beckett
  • ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on’: Beckett, disability and debility
  • Beckett and biopolitics
  • Beckett, revolts of conduct and the politics of transgression
  • Beckett, racialisation and the (ab)normal
  • ‘it is the shape that matters’: Beckett, style and the norms of form

Intersectional readings of these and other tropes in Beckett’s work are especially welcome. Abstracts of 300 words to be sent to by 20 December 2016. There will be a small number of bursaries for graduate students and the unwaged. Please indicate your interest at time of submission.

Posted by:Rhys Tranter

Rhys Tranter is a writer based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. He is the author of Beckett's Late Stage (2018), and his work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, and a number of books and periodicals. He holds a BA, MA, and a PhD in English Literature. His website is a personal journal offering commentary and analysis across literature, film, music, and the arts.

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