Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)

Module ENGL40130: Samuel Beckett

Department: English Studies

ENGL40130: Samuel Beckett

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Building upon analytic and persuasive skills acquired at undegraduate level, this module will introduce students to the profound re-evaluation of narrative and dramatic form introduced by Samuel Beckett's work. These changes will be examined within the context of the philosophical, cultural, historical, and political contexts that shaped them. Through a detailed study of Samuel Beckett's writing and the changing critical approaches to it, ranging from early liberal-humanist interpretations and the second wave of poststructuralist readings all the way to the more recent cultural-phenomenological ones, the students will gain an understanding of the acute literary and cultural developments spanning the period from high modernism to the late twentieth century.


  • The module will adopt a multimedia approach, incorporating audio visual material such as radio and television recordings of Samuel Beckett's work as well as the recent "Beckett on Film" productions of his plays. Where appropriate, we will read a number of Beckett's shorter critical writings. NB: All dates refer to the first English-language publication.
  • Week 1: Beckett and Classical Philosophy
  • Whoroscope (1930); Murphy (1938)
  • Week 2: Time and Memory
  • Proust (1931); Krapp's Last Tape (1958)
  • Weeks 3 & 4: Repetition and Narrative Technique
  • The Four Novellas (1946); Molloy (1955); Malone Dies (1956); The Unnamable (1958)
  • Weeks 5 & 6: Nothing Happens; Revolutionising the Stage
  • Waiting for Godot (1955); Endgame (1958); Happy Days (1961)
  • Week 7: Technology and the New Media
  • All that Fall (1957); Film (1964); Eh Joe (1967)' Footfalls (1976); Rockaby (1982)
  • Week 9: Post-Humanism
  • Company (1980); What Where (1984); What Is the Word (1988)

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain a detailed understanding of a major twentieth-century writer who revolutionised the stage and the page. Through careful attention to Samuel Beckett's prose, drama, poetry, critical writings and work for the radio, television and screen, students will gain an in-depth understanding of narrative and dramatic form and their dialectical relationship to epistemology, psychology, religious thought, language, technology and other philosophical, historical and cultural concerns of the twentieth century. Samuel Beckett's work has fascinated the major philosophers and theorists of its time, amongst them Theodor Adorno, Wolfgang Iser, Michel Foucault, Julia Dritwva and Gilles Deleuze (to mention but a few), who have felt the need to legitimate their thinking through a discussion of Beckett's work. These theoretical texts will be studied alongside the primary texts, giving students a sophisticated understanding of the interrrelationship between artistic, cultural and theoretical developments from the high modernist period to the late twentieth century.
Subject-specific Skills:
    Key Skills:

      Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

      • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge within seminars. The capaciity for advanced independent study is demonstarated through the completion of two assessed pieces of work.

      Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

      Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
      Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 18
      Essay handback session 1 20 mins 0.3
      Preparation and Reading 281.7
      Total 300

      Summative Assessment

      Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
      Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
      Essay 3000 words 50%
      Essay 3000 words 50%

      Formative Assessment:

      One essay 2000 words.

      Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University