University of Gdańsk, 15-21 May 2017

Short Forms in Beckett. Fragments.

Samuel Beckett’s prose and drama can pose many difficulties for a reader unfamiliar with their idiosyncrasies. Fragmentariness, or various fragmentary structures, narrative and dramatic alike, can be considered as one tenet of Beckett’s oeuvre, especially of his later works.  However, what do we mean when we describe his works in this fashion? What is, for example, the fragmentary narrative of The Unnamable or The Lost Ones?  Can we even speak of narrative in the first place, or do we, perhaps, need a redefinition of narrative?

In theory, fragmentariness can encompass two distinct terms: minimal narrative or micro-narrative. The former refers to the bare minimum required for an event sequence to be recognised as a narrative. Some major problems arising in the context of Beckett’s fiction and drama (e.g. How It Is or Not I) include story/plot distinction, causality and sequentiality, and these have been frequently addressed, for example, by S.E. Gontarski (2004) or Rubin Rabinovitz (1999). The latter term, as used for instance by H. Porter Abbott, relates to size. The overarching questions are how long or how short a fiction must be before it ceases to be a story, short story, novella, novel or a sentence. In his introduction to Anti-Story, Philip Stevick enumerates eight types of “reaction against ‘story-ness’”; two of those “againsts” involve event and scale (xv-xxii), relevant in an analysis of, say, Worstward Ho or Come and Go. Intriguingly, micro-narratives can be found embedded within a “macro-narrative” (such as a novel) and the quality of their combining and sequencing can generate an investigation into what we might call “macro-narrativity”, a/an (in)coherent connection between particular micro-narratives.

Other ways of looking at fragmentariness in Beckett might include but are not limited to: thematic fragmentariness (as in Malone’s inventory) and conceptual fragmentariness (as Molloy’s “no things but nameless things, no names but thingless names”).

About the Seminar

The seminar will take place from 16 to 17 May 2016 in Sopot/Gdańsk, Poland. We would like to invite both scholars and artists who wish to approach the theme in their own ways to join us.  While inviting papers on this subject, we also take the opportunity to announce that Professor S. E. GONTARSKI, has already accepted our invitation to take part in the seminar. There will be, moreover, a special presentation of a theatrical experiment entitled Sam by Polish theatre-maker Przemysław Wasilkowski and the presentation of the film Back to the Beckett Text. Beckett na plaży directed by Joanna Cichocka-Gula.

The seminar will be part of the BETWEEN.POMIĘDZY festival of literature and theatre held in Sopot, Gdańsk, and Gdynia from 15 to 21 May 2017. This is the eighth annual festival organized by BETWEEN.POMIĘDZY. For participation in the 2017 seminar, please send 250-word abstracts of papers by 1 March 2017 to The conference registration fee is 100 euros (accommodation not included). For information on previous festivals, see


  • Dr Bartosz Lutostański
  • Aleksandra Wachacz, MA
  • Dr Tomasz Wiśniewski

The University of Gdańsk Samuel Beckett Seminars have been organized every year since 2010. They have been attended by scholars and artists from various parts of the world and have resulted in several publications. Guest speakers have included: Antoni Libera, Irena Jun, Marcello Magni (Theatre de Complicite), Douglas Rintoul (Transport Theatre), Professor S.E. Gontarski (USA), Professor Enoch Brater (USA), Professor H. Porter Abbott (USA), Professor Derek Attridge (United Kingdom), and Dr Mark Nixon (Beckett International Foundation). Professor S.E. Gontarski is the honorary patron of the research group.

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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