What is it about?

Terry Eagleton once posed the question as an essay title: Political Beckett? Now the answers are in. This state-of the-field piece analyzes recent trends in scholarship on the political value of Samuel Beckett’s life and work. What makes a writer political? That they fought against Nazism? That their peers were political? That they donated manuscripts to the African National Congress or gave money to Solidarność? But what makes experimental literature political? That it asks to be contexualized with political history to be understood? That it confronts unexamined cultural norms which indirectly constitute the politics of society? That it rethinks the limits of contemporary theoretical approaches as diverse as queer studies to autism studies? That it challenges autocratic power? This article takes us through some recent answers and advances some of its own.

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Why is it important?

Samuel Beckett, the laureate of impotence and nescience, is not an apolitical writer, despite this longstanding reputation. “Political Beckett!” suggests how one of the most important artists of the 20th-century sharpens our political intelligence and confronts us with our strategies of evasion. By subtracting historical and political context from the page and stage, Beckett analyzes specific systems of politics, economics, and culture that would like nothing better.

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This page is a summary of: Political Beckett!, Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd’hui, August 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/18757405-03402011.
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