English | Twentieth Century British Literature
L749 | 15238 | Watt

L749  15238  WATT (#5)
Twentieth Century British Literature

9:30a – 12:30p R


In the last decade or so, a number of distinguished scholars have
turned their attention to the operations of memory, particularly in
the context of dramatic performance: Marvin Carlson’s The Haunted
Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine (2001) and Attilio Favorini’s
Memory in Play: From Aeschylus to Sam Shepard (2008) serve as two
examples of this renewed interest.  Paul Ricouer’s magisterial
Memory, History, Forgetting (2004) might be regarded as the apex of
such discussions, which also prominently include such thinkers as
Janet, Freud, and Bergson.   More than the workings of individual
memory are at issue, however, in this renewed intellectual interest
in the topic.  Such matters as traumatic memory and shared cultural
memory appear prominently in discussions of modernist and
postmodernist cultures, and within this larger conversation Samuel
Beckett and Harold Pinter are frequently the objects of critical
attention and exegesis.  Beckett in particular, who so often
dissects such mental faculties as memory and imagination
(“Imagination Dead Imagine”), might accurately be described as a
kind of theoretician of these topics throughout his long and
distinguished oeuvre.

After spending some time reading Ricouer, Bergson, Carlson, Cathy
Caruth and others, we will move to a concerted reading of the works
of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, ending with an examination of
traumatic and cultural memory within the context of the “Troubles”
in recent Northern Ireland.  While not finally decided upon, the
reading list would look something like this:

Samuel Beckett
Fiction: Malone Dies, Molloy, The Unnamable, Company, Ill Seen Ill
Said, Worstword Ho, and shorter pieces
Plays: Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days, Krapp’s Last Tape
Criticism: Alain Badiou, On Beckett
Harold Pinter
Major plays: The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, The Homecoming, No
Man’s Land, Old Times, Betrayal; plus Ashes to Ashes, A Kind of
Alaska, Mountain Language, Party Time, The New World Order
Brian Friel, The Freedom of the City
Jennifer Johnston, The Railway Station Man
Bernard MacLaverty, Grace Notes and Cal

I would be pleased to discuss this seminar with anyone interested in
doing so.