In this intermediate Literary Arts program, we’ll study the work of Samuel Beckett, one of the most influential and acclaimed writers of the 20th century. Our study will blend careful textual examination with literary criticism and philosophy to allow us access to Beckett’s difficult oeuvre. Beckett’s life and work provide an opportunity to look carefully at the philosophic and literary legacy of the Enlightenment as encapsulated in its endgame, Modernism. We’ll see how, as one who absorbed much of that historical arc of Western European thought, Beckett moved from Joycean erudition toward an aesthetic of powerlessness, and then on to the difficulty of expressing anything at all. In so doing, Beckett crafted a unique voice and a unified body of work that draws on the devastations of war, on wordlessness in the face of a universe made provisional, and on the strange power of one who has nothing to express, no means to express, yet the obligation to express.
Each week will demand extensive reading and writing and will include live and recorded lectures, seminars, small group collaboration, and writing workshops. Students will develop strong critical reading skills and hone the craft of the literary essay through a quarter-long writing process. Creative writing workshops will enhance our engagement with Beckett’s experiments in idea and form.
This program is designed for students who have completed Literary Arts Foundations or equivalent studies within another program. It is best suited for those interested in pursuing advanced work in either the Literary Arts Path or the Culture, Text, and Language in World Societies Path.
Hybrid learning: some required lectures, meetings, content, and activities may be online, via the program Website (Canvas) and online video-conferencing (Zoom). As much as possible, program meetings will be in-person, depending on circumstances.