Trinity College campus in summer
Trinity College campus in summer

Below are details on the 2016 Beckett Summer School, which will take place at Trinity College Dublin between the 7th and 12th of August 2016. 

Lecture titles for 2016 Summer School:

(click on faculty name for bio)

Valuing Beckett – Rónán McDonald

Beckett’s Containers or What the Archive Tells Us about Beckett and Buddhism  – Angela Moorjani

“…suggesting pursuits of knowledge at some period”: On Preparing Beckett’s Philosophy Notes for Publication Matthew Feldman
Other ArchivesDavid Pattie

Beckett’s Hauntologies: I say it as I hear itNadia Louar

“Headaches Among the Overtones”: Music in the Work of Samuel BeckettCatherine Laws

Beckett, Politics, and the Political – a roundtable featuring members of the Summer School 2016 Faculty


Bilingual Beckett Nadia Louar

One of the most remarkable traits of Beckett’s literary corpus is the fact that it comes in two versions. The mythologized turn to French on the 13th of March 1946, when Beckett drew a line in the manuscript of ‘Suite’ to continue in French the novella that he had started in English a month earlier, does not truly mark “Beckett’s birth as a major French writer.” Beckett’s first literary forays into French began in the late thirties when he wrote poetry. Similarly, “the return to English” in 1956 with a radio play and a prose fragment (the first text written directly in English since Watt according to its author) omits the fact that he had been translating himself back into English since the 1950’s. It is, however, customary to distinguish three periods in Beckett’s linguistic itinerary, the English prewar prose, the turn to French, and the return to English. In our seminars, we will examine the part played by bilingualism in Beckett’s literature and the aesthetic implications of such a literary choice. One of the main questions we will explore is how the practice of self-translation relates to other forms of rewriting that take place in the course of Beckett’s career as novelist, playwright, screenwriter and director.

We will read selections from each “period” and look at the most recent critical studies. While some knowledge of French might be helpful, it is not required.

Beckett and MusicCatherine Laws

Samuel Beckett was a lover of music. He enjoyed playing the piano, was married to a professional pianist, and regularly attended concerts. His listening tastes were broad, but his great love was for music of the late Classical and early Romantic periods, especially Beethoven and Schubert, and in some of his work he references particular compositions or even, occasionally, includes excerpts of the music itself. He also thought hard about music. His early writing includes occasional, often obscure references to music history, philosophy and theory, and in some of this we can observe Beckett explicitly thinking about – or through – music in order to work out the kind of writing he wants to produce: to help him find his literary voice. A musical attention to the detail of sound and its patterning seems increasingly to seep into the very pores of his language. As his voices fizzle on with their broken, empty, repetitive, hopeless – and often very funny – attempts to tell stories, the language fragments and fissures. But whether truncated and percussive, or accumulative and spieling, the closer Beckett seems to get to exhaustion and silence, the more musical the impact of the language. This was important to Beckett: rehearsing Footfalls with Rose Hill, Beckett announced: ‘We are not doing this play realistically or psychologically, we are doing it musically’.

In the seminars we will explore three different aspects of the topic ‘Beckett and music’: the musicality of Beckett’s writing, his use of and references to music, and some of the ways in which composers have responded to Beckett’s texts.

Beckett’s Manuscripts – Mark Nixon & Dirk Van Hulle

During his lifetime, Samuel Beckett donated several manuscripts to archives at universities such as Trinity College, Dublin, and the University of Reading. By studying the marginalia in the books of his personal library, his reading notes on literature, philosophy and psychology, his drafts and typescripts, we investigate how these manuscripts can contribute to an interpretation of Beckett’s works. The methodological framework is the theory of genetic criticism, which sets itself a double task: the ‘genetic’ task of making the manuscripts accessible (ordering, deciphering and transcribing), resulting in a genetic dossier; the ‘critical’ task of reconstructing the genesis from a chosen point of view (psychoanalysis, sociocriticism, narratology, etc.). Different methods of transcription (diplomatic, linear, topographic) and encoding (markup languages, the Text Encoding Initiative’s guidelines) will be discussed and applied to Beckett’s manuscripts. The potential interpretive consequences of this genetic research will be discussed in the second part of the seminar.

 Performance Workshop – Jonathan HeronNicholas Johnson


The Performance Workshop of the Samuel Beckett Summer School

The Samuel Beckett Laboratory provides a space and occasion for fundamental research into Beckett’s work in and through performance. Meeting annually through the five days of the Beckett Summer School, the Lab occupies a black-box theatre to create an ensemble of students, scholars, performers, directors, designers, and technicians to explore the problems and practices of Beckett in performance.


The Lab is founded on the simple principle that by approaching Beckett’s texts through performance, deeper insight into the texts’ function or meaning can be gained. This function of performance as a methodology is taken as a truism for playscripts, where it is widely agreed that the kinaesthetic or practical knowledge achieved by the performer, director, designer, or technician is a valuable aspect of attaining a deep understanding of the work. The Lab applies this principle across genre to include prose, poetry, radio, television, film, correspondence, and manuscript/draft material. The Lab exists to cultivate a safe and facilitated environment where, for the purpose of both research and pedagogy, scholars can engage in an inclusive manner with all of Beckett’s writing as performance material.

The focus for 2016 will be sound in Beckett; especially the practical exploration of Beckett’s soundscapes with reference to recorded voice, sound design and musical score. The source texts for these experiments will be Krapp’s Last Tape (1958) and Cascando (1963).  With two facilitators creating a working environment that elevates the non-hierarchical and exploratory embodiment of the “ensemble,” the workshop participants are all invited to respond through performance, reflecting on possible elements of dramaturgy, design, acting, and directing of the selected piece. Over the course of five days of engagement with the source texts and various performance practices, this approach is designed to generate a form of deep knowledge of the text’s structure, cross-reference, and operation as a “living thought” that can be embodied or communicated in manifold ways to an audience.


While the primary mode of engagement is a week of intensive practical experiments, the Lab also offers workshops and consultation in a range of international and interdisciplinary contexts. Recent examples have included events at the Dublin Science Gallery (‘Fail Better’, 2014), University of Reading (‘Staging Beckett’, 2015) and University of Antwerp (‘Beckett and Modernism’, 2016). Lab consultations take the form of sustained dialogues with research collaborators approaching Beckett in performance, for example, the ‘Hearing the Voice’ project at the Centre of the Medical Humanities, Durham University (2016). Research produced by the Lab has been disseminated in the Journal of Beckett Studies (23.1, 2014), and future publications are currently in development.

Visit the Beckett Laboratory page for further details.

Performances and Public Programme

Tickets to all public programme events are included for faculty and registered participants of the summer school; booking is not required if you are already in the school. Members of the public interested in attending the below events should follow the Eventbrite link after each title for full details and ticket booking information. A small number of tickets may also be available on the door of these events, but it is safest to pre-book, as capacity is strictly limited in all venues. Please see the Public Programme 2016 dedicated page for full event descriptions.

What Would I Do Without This Silence / Cad A Dhéanfainn Gan An Tost Sea Áit Ina N-Éagann na Monabhir
Mouth on Fire presents Beckett’s poetry in Irish, French, and English
(co-organised with DRAFF Conference/Colloque and supported by UNESCO)
FREE BUT TICKETED: Book Tickets Here

Readings by Barry McGovern in the GPO
FREE BUT TICKETED (standing only): Book Tickets Here

“Headaches Among the Overtones”: Music in the Work of Samuel Beckett
A public lecture by Catherine Laws
€10 (plus booking fee): Book Tickets Here

Olwen Fouéré: In Conversation
One of Ireland’s leading creative artists discusses her work, Beckett and beyond
€10 (plus booking fee): Book Tickets Here

Behind the Scenes: Pan Pan’s Cascando
Sights, sounds, and stories from the 2016 premiere of Cascando (includes full recording)

€10 (plus booking fee): Book Tickets Here