New Volume of the Letters of Samuel Beckett Debuts at Emory University

Barry McGovern

October 13, 2014

A celebration of The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1957-1965, will be held on Wednesday, November 5 at 8 p.m. at Emory University¿s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.  Titled ¿Whatever is to Come,¿ the event will feature readings from Beckett¿s letters by renowned Irish actor Barry McGovern, as well as Atlanta actors Carolyn Cook, Brenda Bynum and Robert Shaw-Smith. The event is free and open to the public.

Barry McGovern, a Donna and Marvin Schwartz Artist in Residence, will participate in a workshop on November 6, 1 to 3 p.m. in the Schwartz Center Theater Lab. ¿Acting Beckett and Pinter¿ will highlight his experience in performing texts, plays, prose, and poetry. This workshop is also free and open to the public.

 McGovern¿s one-man show based on Beckett¿s texts, I¿ll Go On, produced by Dublin¿s Gate Theatre, has played worldwide. He has toured with the Gate productions of Waiting for Godot, Endgame and Happy Days. He has also played in Krapp¿s Last Tape. In early 2012 he played Vladimir in the acclaimed production of ¿Waiting for Godot¿ at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles for which he was nominated as a 2012 Ovation Award Lead Actor. McGovern¿s recordings of the Beckett¿s novels Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable are available from www.rte.ie/shop.

The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1957-1965
The third volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett focuses on the years when Beckett is striving to find a balance between the demands put upon him by his growing international fame, and his need for the peace and silence from which new writing might emerge. This is the period in which Beckett writes Krapp¿s Last Tape, Happy Days, and Play, and launches into work for radio, film and, later, into television. It also marks his return to writing fiction, with his first major piece for a decade, Comment c'est (How It Is). Where he had been reticent about the writing process, now he devotes letter after letter to describing and explaining his work in progress. For the first time Beckett has a woman as his major correspondent: a relationship shown in his intense and abundant letters to Barbara Bray.

The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1928-1940, published in 2009, reveals the passion, wit and surprising vulnerability of a young Beckett at his most unguarded. The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1941-1956, published in 2011, covers a crucial period of innovation for Beckett as he moves away from English and writes some of his best known works in French. Both volumes were published and released by Cambridge University Press to international acclaim.

Letters of Samuel Beckett at Emory
Beckett authorized founding editor Martha Dow Fehsenfeld to publish his correspondence in 1985. Lois More Overbeck was asked to join the project that same year. The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett project became affiliated with the Laney Graduate School of Emory in 1990. At Emory, several generations of graduate students have been involved in the research and editing process, providing a foundation for their future teaching and scholarship.

¿The Beckett Letters Project is enormously important to graduate education and humanities research here at the Laney Graduate School, and this work is being shared and having an impact well beyond Emory throughout the world,¿ says Lisa Tedesco, Executive Vice president of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Laney Graduate School.

Students of the Laney Graduate School, Emory College, and The American University of Paris have participated in the research for the edition making the project a ¿laboratory for the humanities.¿

Soon after the project came to Emory, Daniel Gunn, Professor of Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris and George Craig, Research Reader Emeritus at the University of Sussex, joined the editorial team as editor and translator. The edition has had support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Florence Gould Foundation, and other research grants. The American University of Paris has become a center for the edition in France. 

Co-sponsors of the readings and workshop at Emory include the Laney Graduate School, Donna and Marvin Schwartz Artist-in-Residence Program, Theater Emory, and the Department of Theater Studies; the Consulate General of Ireland in Atlanta, Department of Foreign Affairs, the Consulate General of France in Atlanta; and the British Consulate General in Atlanta. 

For more information, visit www.gs.emory.edu/beckettletters or email beckettletters@emory.edu.