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Pop Beckett: Intersections with Popular Culture, Paul Stewart, David Pattie (eds.)

Megane Mazé
p. 173-175
Référence(s) :

Pop Beckett: Intersections with Popular Culture, Paul Stewart, David Pattie (eds.), Stuttgart, Ibidem-Verlag (Samuel Beckett in Company; 6), 2019, 308 p.

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1If his name is alien to no one, Samuel Beckett remains in the popular imagination as a somehow hagiography-prone obscure authorial figure, whose texts are difficult to decipher. The sixth volume of the “Samuel Beckett in Company” collection, entitled Pop Beckett: Intersections with Popular Culture is a timely investigation of the author’s presence in our everyday life. Following the publication of P. J. Murphy and Nick Pawliuk’s book Beckett in Popular Culture: Essays on a Postmodern Icon (2015), this new collection gives an insightful reevaluation of the dichotomy between “high” and “low” cultures in the context of Beckettian studies. The introduction identifies a series of artistic fields on which the Beckett persona sits: a bridge inaugurated in 2009 in Dublin, an episode in the BBC TV series Urban Myths, his portrait laid on many Trinity College gifts, and so on. The list seems endless and shows to what extent an author and his oeuvre soon become commodities for the sake of popular culture. This collection offers thus a clear overview of how, where and why Beckett’s oeuvre remains present in many forms.

2The first part of the book investigates the way in which Beckett interacted with popular culture in his own time and how it manifests itself in his texts. In his essay, John Pilling starts by giving an abundance of allusions to popular culture within Beckett’s earlier texts, with a special emphasis on songs in Dream of Fair to Middling Women. He goes on to demonstrate that Beckett’s texts were never completely deprived of biographic references, hence already blurring the line between the everyday and the literary. Pim Verhulst and Jonathan Bignell follow on this line with studies of mass culture through Beckett’s BBC radio play All That Fall and Godot’s ITV broadcasting – a network heavily relying on advertisements – placing Beckett in a context of historical British instability. The use of such media allows the emergence of yet another in-betweenness, from the privacy of the audience’s home to the public transmission of broadcasting. Verhulst explores the ways in which Beckett had to adapt and simplify his commonly known tropes in order to make those texts accessible to a wider audience. In an attempt to comprehend Beckett’s paradoxical association with counter-culture and high academic standards, Stephen Dilks and James Baxter both reinvestigate the common idea of Beckett’s relative reluctance to any form of publicity and examine how editors and practitioners alike helped ingrain his iconic image through readings of Barney Rosset’s controversial Evergreen Review and Oxford University’s failed attempt to build a theatre bearing his name.

3The second part of the book explores how both Beckett’s oeuvre and persona are nowadays fashioned through interpretation and commodification. Paul Stewart interrogates Beckett’s presence in Art Spielgelman’s graphic novel Maus, both revealing and assessing his influence on many artists. According to Stewart, the use of a quotation taken from an interview rather than a published book allows to see the emergence of a popular authorial figure. Ken Alba, Mark Schreiber and Anna Douglass all offer a proficient evaluation of Beckett’s presence in the digital environment. Online, Alba posits, Beckett’s oeuvre is fragmented into a wide range of (mis)quotations, memes and bots that further highlight how technology gives an easy access to culture while at the same time subverting and multiplying the image commonly associated with Beckett. Schreiber and Douglass both argue that Beckett’s presence in video games – and digital media at large – helps understand his multi-genre oeuvre. By focusing on the idea of “failure”, Douglass outlines the paradox of “an experience worth enduring” (p. 220). Beckett’s presence on screen is further investigated in Hannah Simpson’s thorough analysis of Barry McGovern’s scene in the drama TV series Game of Thrones, allowing for a variety of intertextual references. By soliciting social media to understand the reception of such a nod in a worldwide show, she highlights the impact scholars and Beckett enthusiasts have on the dissemination of Beckett’s work. Selvin Yaltir’s essay explores Blanchot’s thesis on the everyday to draw a parallel between Mercier and Camier and the Coen brothers’ movies and compares their views on obscure sociability through repetition, dull conversation and small talk. David Pattie investigates “the performative rhetoric of faith” (p. 268) and the fragmentation of the self in both Beckett’s texts and Nick Cave’s songs, reinforcing the idea that solitude is built on in a way that renders the creation of a clear sense of identity impossible. The book concludes on an interview with Jo Baker conducted by Stewart in which the author of A Country Road, A Tree is asked about the challenges in writing a novel based on a persona such as Beckett’s, highlighting yet again the literary and popular heritage of Beckett.

4This collection of essays offers a wide range of riveting examples of where to find, feel or imagine a Beckettian presence in our everyday encounters with pop culture. This further highlights the need to accept the emergence of new cultural forms and the interweaving of “high” and “low” cultures – not so much as a way of “dumbing down” (p. 10) but as a need to accept their strong connection. Simpson’s final stance summarises what needs to be taken into account: “[Henry] Jenkins warns: ‘No one group can set the terms. No one group can control access and participation’ [Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York – London, New York University Press, 2006, p. 23]. As this timely volume engages in a closer interrogation of the interrelationship between Beckett’s work and pop culture, we as scholars and academics might do well to heed his words” (p. 242).

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Megane Mazé, « Pop Beckett: Intersections with Popular Culture, Paul Stewart, David Pattie (eds.) »Études irlandaises, 46-1 | 2021, 173-175.

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Megane Mazé, « Pop Beckett: Intersections with Popular Culture, Paul Stewart, David Pattie (eds.) »Études irlandaises [En ligne], 46-1 | 2021, mis en ligne le 08 juillet 2021, consulté le 20 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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