Summer school explores Beckett’s ongoing relevance

Although Shakespeare is often discussed as the greatest writer in the English language, Samuel Beckett may have caught up with him by the next century, if scholarly interest is anything to go by.

Assistant Professor of Drama and co-director of the Samuel Beckett Summer School Nicholas Johnson says that attention from researchers and artists is only growing: “The breadth and scale of Beckett’s literary achievement across different languages and media is remarkable, and sets him apart from many other writers in the canon.”

The summer school, now in its sixth year, began yesterday and culminates on Friday. It offers scholars and enthusiasts the opportunity to deeply engage with the work and thought of this Irish literary giant.

It also boasts an impressive programme of events open to the general public. This public programme, aimed at those with a more casual interest in the author and playwright, includes talks and performances by internationally acclaimed artists and academics. For the most part these are based in and around Trinity College, the place where Beckett began his intellectual life.

Dovetailing with the end of the three-day bilingual Beckett conference DRAFF and supported by UNESCO/City of Literature, the summer school’s first public event yesterday featured the innovative theatre company Mouth on Fire, who put on a performance based on Beckett’s poetry entitled What would I do without this silence, featuring translations in Irish, French, and English.

While Beckett wrote numerous lyric poems throughout his life both in English and French, many of these have now been translated into Irish for the first time by poet and translator Gabriel Rosenstock. Yesterday’s event was extra special as it showcased the world premiere of a new Irish translation of Roundelay.

Tomorrow night the GPO is the venue for a reading by world-renowned Beckett interpreter Barry McGovern. The evening will focus on texts that reflect Beckett’s troubled relationship with Irish nationalism, which will be particularly poignant and provocative due to the venue.**

On Wednesday morning musicologist and pianist Catherine Laws presents the talk Headaches among the overtones, focusing on the musicality of Beckett’s work and composers’ responses to it.

On Thursday evening the Beckett Theatre is the venue for a conversation with the creative artist Olwen Fouéré. Olwen has been one of the most notable of all Beckett’s interpreters and this event attempts to gain insights into her creative process while also examining the ongoing significance of Beckett for today’s artists.

The summer school’s public programme concludes on Friday evening with a behind the scenes exploration of Pan Pan’s Cascando. This event includes a playback of the company’s new Cascando recording, a filmic response to the installation and a conversation with the creative team behind it.

In tandem with this public series of events, an academic programme, comprising morning lectures and afternoon seminars, will also be running throughout the week in partnership with the Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity’s research institute for the humanities.

The summer school, which explores Beckett’s works from a variety of perspectives in order to re-examine his ongoing legacy, is organised by the School of English and the School of Drama, Film and Music.

**This event is standing only and will be followed by a wine reception.

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One of the highlights of the public programme will be artist Barry McGovern's reading in the GPO on Tuesday night. Main image (top): Beckett in 1977 photographed by Roger Pic