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

This research project investigated Samuel Beckett’s television plays Eh Joe, Geistertrio, ... Nur noch Gewölk …, Quadrat I & II, Nacht und Träume, Was Wo, which were produced by the German public broadcaster Süddeutscher Rundfunk between 1966 and 1985. The project approached the plays through the historicity of literary genres, as developed in the critical theory of Adorno and Benjamin and was also informed by recent debates on the autonomy of drama and post-dramatic theater (Christoph Menke and Hans-Thies Lehmann).

The study demonstrates, how the television plays restage the crossover and rupture of genres that Beckett was already addressing in his prose and earlier theater works. From this perspective, the position of the television plays relative to his other late works marks both a certain continuity in the immanent transformation of genres as well as a discontinuity regarding the new means of artistic production in his work for the SDR. This ambivalence begged the question whether aesthetic reflection, shaped by the genres of drama and the novel, can help us understand the specificity of other artistic formats such as the television plays. Despite their breaking with genre conventions, it was argued that the television plays provide a unique insight into a main line of aesthetic reflection on genres, namely the relationship between artistic form and social experience. These issues were 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