Emory celebrates new volume of Samuel Beckett's letters

Arts at Emory | Oct. 30, 2014

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Samuel Beckett's writings extended the limits of fiction, drama, poetry and criticism. Photo of Beckett in 1977 by Roger Pic.

A celebration of "The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1957-1965" will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m. at Emory University's Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Titled "Whatever is to Come," the free public event will feature readings from Beckett's letters by renowned Irish actor Barry McGovern, as well as Atlanta actors Carolyn Cook, Brenda Bynum and Robert Shaw-Smith.



McGovern, a Donna and Marvin Schwartz Artist in Residence, will also participate in a workshop on Nov. 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Schwartz Center Theater Lab. "Acting Beckett and Pinter" will highlight his experience in performing texts, plays, prose and poetry. This workshop is also free and open to the public.

"The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1957-1965," 
the third volume of "The Letters of Samuel Beckett," focuses on the years when the Irish-born writer was striving to find a balance between the demands put upon him by his growing international fame, and his need for the peace and silence from which new writing might emerge.

This is the period in which Beckett writes "Krapp's Last Tape," "Happy Days" and "Play," and launches into work for radio, film and, later, television. It also marks his return to writing fiction, with his first major piece for a decade, "Comment c'est (How It Is)." Where he had been reticent about the writing process, now he devotes letter after letter to describing and explaining his work in progress. For the first time Beckett has a woman as his major correspondent: a relationship shown in his intense and abundant letters to Barbara Bray.

"The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1928-1940," published in 2009, reveals the passion, wit and surprising vulnerability of a young Beckett at his most unguarded. "The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1941-1956," published in 2011, covers a crucial period of innovation for Beckett as he moves away from English and writes some of his best known works in French. Both volumes were published and released by Cambridge University Press to international acclaim.

Beckett's letters at Emory

Letters of Samuel Beckett

""Whatever is to Come,” a Nov. 5 public reading featuring renowned Irish actor Barry McGovern, celebrates the release of "The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1957-1965."


Beckett authorized founding editor Martha Dow Fehsenfeld to publish his correspondence in 1985. Lois More Overbeck was asked to join the project that same year. The Letters of Samuel Beckett project became affiliated with the Laney Graduate School of Emory in 1990, the year after Beckett died. At Emory, several generations of graduate students have been involved in the research and editing process, providing a foundation for their future teaching and scholarship.

Students of the Laney Graduate School, Emory College and the American University of Paris have participated in the research for the edition, making the project a "laboratory for the humanities."

Soon after the project came to Emory, Daniel Gunn, professor of comparative literature at the American University of Paris, and George Craig, research reader emeritus at the University of Sussex, joined the editorial team as editor and translator. The edition has had support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Florence Gould Foundation and other research grants. The American University of Paris has become a center for the edition in France. 

Co-sponsors of the readings and workshop at Emory include the Laney Graduate School; Donna and Marvin Schwartz Artist-in-Residence Program; Theater Emory and the Department of Theater Studies; the Consulate General of Ireland in Atlanta; Department of Foreign Affairs; the Consulate General of France in Atlanta; and the British Consulate General in Atlanta. 

For more information, visit Letters of Samuel Beckett website or email beckettletters@emory.edu.