A new edited volume of essays from Ibidem Press, to be published Spring 2019

Whether on a ‘great writers’ poster in an “Irish” pub on an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, or on an Apple advertisement, or on the forearm of a tennis player, the face and words of Beckett are disseminated well beyond the confines of academia, the traditional theatre, or so-called high culture. In an attempt to address these and related concerns, “Pop Beckett” will be a collection of essays investigating the intersections between Beckett (both the works and the figure of the author) and popular culture. The volume has two main objectives: to illuminate how popular cultural forms inform Beckett’s work, and how Beckett has influenced, or is used in, popular media today.

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Beckett actor and collaborator Jack MacGowran alongside Ellen Burstyn on the set of The Exorcist (dir. William Friedkin, 1973)

The first objective will hopefully demonstrate that Beckett was embedded within popular cultural forms of his day – particular in the early stages of his career – be it in the form of film, advertising or song, and that these cultural units are refracted through the works themselves.

rick-mayall-adrian-edmondson-waiting-for-godot-beckett
Promotional still for the Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson production of Waiting for Godot

The subsequent presence of Beckett in popular culture – both the works and the figure of the man himself – covers a wide array of fields that, as Emilie Morin has suggested, might lead us to re-think Beckett’s continuing position in neoliberal capitalism. Moreover, the boundaries of popular and ‘high’ culture are open to contestation. As is well known, the original American production of Godot advertised the play as ‘the laugh sensation of two continents’, thus presenting it as something akin to light entertainment. As that production starred Bert Lahr – famous as for his role as Lion in The Wizard of Oz ­­– one is reminded that the figure of the actor frequently crosses the boundaries of supposed high and low culture (consider Billie Whitelaw in The Omen, or Patrick Magee in Zulu, or, more recently, Barry McGovern in Game of Thrones; or, conversely, productions of Godot featuring popular comedy actors, such as the Williams and Martin production in the USA or the Mayall and Edmonson production in the UK). In recent years, traditional media has been challenged by the rise of the Internet, and papers addressing Beckett’s presence in such media are most welcome, whether they focus on pastiche or parodies of the works, or on the ‘wisdom of Samuel Beckett’ meme culture.

Submissions

Suggested areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Beckett’s interactions with popular culture during his career (such as the traces of vaudeville, popular song, advertising, etc within his works)
  • Treatment of the historical figure of Beckett in popular media (television, film, etc.)
  • Beckett’s influence on popular media forms (television, film, radio and the internet)
  • Allusive use of Beckett and / or his works in popular culture
  • Beckett’s influence on individual practitioners in popular cultural forms
  • Beckett and Advertising
  • Beckett on the Internet (eg the meme culture of ‘fail better’)
  • Pastiches and Parodies of Beckett in popular culture (eg, Sesame Street Godot)
  • Beckett in popular music: influences and intersections.
  • The role of institutions (both academic and cultural) in the dissemination of Beckett in popular culture
  • Beckett and Festivalisation
  • Beckett and Tourism

Deadline for Abstract Submissions: 20 December 2017.

Abstracts of approximately 300 words and a short academic biography to be sent to the editors, David Pattie and Paul Stewart, jointly at stewartp@me.com and D.Pattie@bham.ac.uk. Successful contributors will then be asked to provide a full article.

Deadline for final article submissions of approximately 6000 words, 30 May 2018

Publication date: Spring 2019.

For any initial queries, contact Paul Stewart at stewartp@me.com

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Posted by:Rhys Tranter

Rhys Tranter is a writer and photographer based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. 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 RhysTranter.com is a personal journal offering commentary and analysis across literature, film, music, and the arts.

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