Beckett Ongoing: Ethics, Politics, Modernism
On the thirtieth anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s death, we would propose to return to the multi-faceted, polyglot, and translatory writing of an author who has been called, fairly or not, the last of the modernists. In light of the recent publication of his letters, alongside new illuminating scholarship on his manuscripts, library, and biography, we wish to re-examine the ways in which Beckett’s literary and aesthetic practices of failure might re-inflect and expand upon current debates around ethics and politics in English, French, German, Irish, and comparative studies of transnational modernisms and thought.
A few of the most philosophically inclined readers of Beckett’s writing have underscored its “political tenacity” (Badiou), ordinariness (Cavell), and autonomy (Adorno). In contrast, many literary critics and theorists have brought into focus its comedic effects (Cohn), formal abstractionism (Casanova), rhetoric (Clément), and apoliticism (Gontarski), whereas others have considered the desubjectifying potentiality of Beckett’s “impoverished art” (Bersani), “tattered syntax,” anti-humanism, and impersonal narrative voice (Banfield, Bataille, Blanchot). If Beckett continues to speak to us today, then how might we proceed to tease out once again the ethical and political implications of his writing, plays, films, and radio or television broadcasts? It would seem that we are not done with Beckett, or Beckett is not done with challenging our sense of what literature and art is. From a distance, his work still urges us to contend with questions of literary engagement and disengagement, totality and fragmentary breakdown, community and anti-sociality, inertia and unworking, testimony and disaster, origins and translation, national/cultural/linguistic belonging and exile, responsibility and silence, sense-making and the materiality of bodies, language, images, and sound, as well as the struggle to go on under the threat of the impossible.
This event has been organized by Michael Krimper (Comparative Literature, New York University), Gabriel Quigley (Comparative Literature, New York University), and John Waters (English and Irish Studies, New York University).
This event is open to the public.
Friday, May 3, 2019
2:00 PM - 2:10 PM: Opening Remarks: Gabriel Quigley
2:15 PM - 3:00 PM: "Iterable, Imitable, Irritable: Beckett’s Prose Style and the Edges of Philosophical Pleasure": John Waters (Irish Studies & English, New York University)
3:00 PM - 3:45 PM: "Philosophy in the Flesh: Animals, Ethics, and Somatic Thinking in Beckett": Will Broadway (English, UW Madison)
3:45 PM - 4:15 PM: Coffee Break
4:15 PM - 5:00 PM: "What a coincidence!": Ann Smock (French, UC Berkeley)
5:00 PM - 5:45 PM: "Voiceprints: Beckett After Things": David Lloyd (English, UC Riverside)
5:45 PM - 6:00 PM: Pause
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM: "A Body of Becketts": Lisa Dwan (Columbia University)
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM: Reception
Saturday, May 4, 2019
10:30 AM - 11:15 AM: "'Where you are worth nothing': Geulincx Ongoing": Gabriel Quigley (Comparative Literature, New York University)
11:15 AM - 12:00 PM: "Beckett Impolitic": Thomas Trezise (French & Italian, Princeton University)
2:15 PM - 3:00 PM: "'GRREY!' (Beckett, dialectic)": Rebecca Comay (Comparative Literature & Philosophy, University of Toronto)
3:00 PM - 3:45 PM: "Respirer à travers: Beckett and Blanchot": Stefanie Heine (Comparative Literature, Zürich University)
3:45 PM - 4:30 PM: "Perseverance in the ‘Three Dialogues’ and Novels": Michael Krimper (Comparative Literature, New York University)
4:30 PM - 5:00 PM: Coffee Break
5:00 PM - 6:15 PM: Keynote Address: "Beckett and the Posthuman": Jean-Michel Rabaté (English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania)