Beyond Historicism: Resituating Samuel Beckett

The University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney · 7-8 December, 2012
Trilogy images courtesy of Neven Udovičić
A call for papers (see below) has been distributed for an upcoming conference at The University of New South Wales in Sydney. Thank you to Laura Foster for getting in touch about the event.

About the Conference

When Samuel Beckett's novel Molloy first appeared in France, in May 1951, Georges Bataille called it an "extravagant, fantastic, sordid" tale that precipitated a "monstrous myth". The two novels that succeeded Molloy - Malone Dies (1951) and The Unnamable (1953) - have, despite their author's resistance, collectively come to be known as the Trilogy. Yet if Bataille (and other French critics) initially saw these works as contributions to the European avant-garde, subsequent critical responses have been more wide-ranging, considering them as, for example, psychoanalytical case-studies, violations of generic forms (detective novel, memoir-cum-confession, domestic comedy, novel of ideas) and as fictional demonstrations of what will later be theorised as deconstruction. But perhaps the most telling indicator of the Trilogy's enduring influence is that, even as it affirmed the death of the novel as a viable narrative form, it also inspired at least two other fictional trilogies: Paul Auster's New York Trilogy and John Banville's Frames Trilogy.

Following Faber's recent re-publication of the three novels, this conference seeks to re-examine how these and other works can be read now, at this particular moment in Beckett studies. Responding to or even reacting against the theoretical turn of the mid-1980s, the so-called 'archival' turn of the past fifteen years has sought to place Beckett's works on a more empirical and evidential footing. Driven by two biographies, scholarly annotations of Beckett's notebooks, and, most recently, two volumes of the Letters, this orientation has developed a critical apparatus that often works to foreclose on or at least proscribe more speculative, exploratory engagements with the Beckett oeuvre.

One of the aims of this conference is to resituate the Trilogy at the heart of Beckett's prose corpus. To that effect, there will be at least two panels based on re-examinations of the three novels. However, we also invite papers that address any other part of Beckett's writing - fictional, dramatic, cinematic or critical - and consider how it might be read and understood in the wake of the historicist-empirical emphasis of the last fifteen years. How does Beckett's work appear to us now, when put into dialogue with more recent critical and philosophical approaches to literature, such as (but not limited to) cognitive literary studies, neuoroaesthetics, thing theory, the 'new' narratology, eco-poetics, theories of affect, cybercriticism, technics, trauma theory, swarm theory, biopolitics, network ecologies, the new aestheticism, literary-legal studies, and so on? And how does Beckett's work seem when confronted with the doyens of 'post-theory', both evident already in Beckett studies (Badiou, Agamben) and less visible (Rancière, Žižek, Stiegler, Nancy, Latour)? Or when set alongside other, more idiosyncratic thinkers - Kittler, Sloterdijk, Meillassoux?

Confirmed keynote speakers

Professor Derek Attridge (University of York, UK)
Assoc. Professor Anthony Uhlmann (University of Western Sydney)

Conference venue

The University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney

All enquiries


Call for papers

Potential papers should address the Trilogy, or any other part of Beckett's work, in its textual, historical, theoretical and / or formal dimensions, and consider how any of these might be recast or rethought in light of the debates outlined above.

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words, and submitted via email, to: resituating.beckett@gmail.com Please include the paper title, and a brief biography and contact details of the presenting author.

Submission deadline: 31 October 2012, at 5pm.

Please note: authors of successful submissions will have 20 minutes to present their paper.


Academic / salaried $250
Academic / non-salaried $130
Payment options available soon.


Beyond Historicism: Resituating Samuel Beckett - Macquarie University

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