Sozita Goudouna examines the intersection of Samuel Beckett’s thirty-second playlet Breath with the visual arts

Samuel Beckett, one of the most prominent playwrights of the twentieth century, wrote a thirty-second playlet for the stage that does not include actors, text, characters or drama but only stage directions. Breath (1969) is the focus and the only theatrical text examined in this study, which demonstrates how the piece became emblematic of the interdisciplinary exchanges that occur in Beckett’s later writings, and of the cross-fertilisation of the theatre with the visual arts. The book attends to fifty breath-related artworks (including sculpture, painting, new media, sound art, performance art) and contextualises Beckett’s Breath within the intermedial and high-modernist discourse thereby contributing to the expanding field of intermedial Beckett criticism.

Key Features

  • Examines Beckett’s ultimate venture to define the borders between a theatrical performance and purely visual representation
  • Juxtaposes Beckett’s Breath with breath-related artworks by prominent visual artists who investigate the far-reaching potential of the representation of respiration by challenging modernist essentialism
  • The focus on this primary human physiological function and its relation to arts and culture is highly pertinent to studies of human performance, the nature of embodiment and its relation to cultural expression
  • Facilitates new intermedial discourses around the nature and aesthetic possibilities of breath, the minimum condition of existence, at the interface between the visual arts and performance practices and their relation to questions of spectacle, objecthood and materiality

This is a press release from the Edinburgh University Press website.

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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 RhysTranter.com is a personal journal offering commentary and analysis across literature, film, music, and the arts.

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