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Unit information: Samuel Beckett in 2018/19

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Unit name Samuel Beckett
Unit code ENGL30029
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Maude
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will focus on Samuel Beckett, a major twentieth-century writer whose works were written between 1929 and 1988, ranging from high modernism to so-called postmodernism. Beckett’s work embodies a number of major twentieth-century themes, such as the questions of language, representation, narrative and dramatic technique, translation, identity, gender, embodiment, perception, repetition, technology and post-humanism. His work includes critical writings, poetry, novels, short prose works, drama, a film script, and work for the radio and television. The unit will focus on the different formal and thematic concerns of Beckett’s writing, combining an emphasis on close reading with an understanding of the various intellectual, cultural and political contexts addressed in his work. Where appropriate, we will read Beckett’s shorter critical writings, and consult his correspondence. The history of Beckett criticism, from early humanist-existentialist readings to second-wave poststructuralist ones, and finally to more recent phenomenological and cultural approaches will also be discussed.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) developed a sound knowledge and critical understanding of Beckett’s prose, drama, critical writings and works for the radio, television and screen;

(2) gained in-depth knowledge of narrative and dramatic form and its dialectical relationship to the historical, cultural and philosophical concerns of the twentieth century;

(3) reflected upon the formal and thematic concerns of Samuel Beckett’s work;

(4) written critically and analytically upon these themes.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

  • 1 essay of 2,000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3,000 words (60%)

Both summative essays assess ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

Beckett, Samuel, Murphy. London: Faber, 2009.

Beckett, Samuel, Molloy. London: Faber, 2009.

Beckett, Samuel, Malone Dies. London: Faber, 2010.

Beckett, Samuel, The Unnamable. London: Faber, 2010.

Beckett, Samuel, The Complete Dramatic Works. London: Faber and Faber, 1990.

Beckett, Samuel, Company/ Ill Seen Ill Said/Worstward Ho. London: Faber, 2009.