Samuel Beckett's Television Plays. Means of Production, Literary Genres, Critical Theory

Project description

The research project investigates Samuel Beckett’s late works, particularly his television plays produced by the Süddeutscher Rundfunk - SDR (today: Südwestrundfunk - SWR) between 1966 and 1985: Eh Joe, Geistertrio, ... Nur noch Gewölk …, Quadrat I & II, Nacht und Träume, Was Wo. The project approaches the plays through the historicity of literary genres (epic and dramatic), as developed in the critical theory of Adorno and Benjamin, and through recent debates in theater theory on the autonomy of drama and post-dramatic theater (Christoph Menke and Hans-Thies Lehmann). According to the initial hypothesis, the television plays transpose problems of literary genres to a different medium. In this way, they restage the crossover and rupture of genres that Beckett was already dealing with in his prose and theater works. From this perspective, the position of the television plays in relation to his other late works marks both a certain continuity in the immanent transformation of genres as well as a discontinuity with new means of artistic production in his work at the German public television station (SDR). This ambivalent position raises the question whether the aesthetic reflection shaped by the genres of drama and the novel can help us understand the specificity of other artworks such as the television plays. Moreover, the project argues that, despite their breaking with genre conventions, the television plays provide unique insight into a main line of aesthetic reflection on genres, namely, the relationship between artistic form and social experience. These issues will be addressed by analyzing three formal aspects of Beckett’s television plays: series, voices, and images.

Funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2016–2019
Head researcher(s): Luciano Gatti