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Beckett: art, music and the creative process

Jeffery, L. (2018) Beckett: art, music and the creative process. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This thesis looks at Samuel Beckett’s creative process beginning with an analysis of how the visual arts (in particular Kandinsky and Abstract Expressionism) influenced Watt, which he began writing as a means of staying sane during WWII, and ending with an investigation of the colour blue in Company (which was finished in 1980) in relation to paintings by Beckett’s acquaintance, Geneviève Asse. Three radio plays and two teleplays which Beckett wrote during this period are also examined to evaluate how contemporary (Morton Feldman and Marcel Mihalovici) and Romantic (Beethoven and Schubert) music instruct Beckett’s creative process, specifically his structural techniques and narrative voice. With reference to Beckett’s early drafts from his manuscripts held in the Beckett Collection at the University of Reading, his correspondences, and early critical essays, this research asks how music, art, and media inform Beckett’s aesthetic decisions and shape his work. Specifically, it asks how Beckett’s use of art and music can create new perspectives on his struggle to express the sense of longing and tension between hope and despair. By choosing texts that span forty years, Beckett’s stylistic shifts are analysed in relation to the cultural context, particularly the technological advancements and artistic movements, during which they occur. As an author who recycles numerous motifs – greatcoats, slippers, the sea, cylindrical enclosures – one can identify how Beckett’s methodological experimentation affects his creative process, particularly his use of language. This thesis finds new examples to claim that the drastic changes that took place in the visual and musical worlds, such as the move from abstraction to minimalism, and tonality to atonality, influenced Beckett and, in turn, were influenced by him. Its focus on Beckett’s creative process contributes to interdisciplinary scholarship, extending the discussion on Beckett and his personal and intellectual involvement with the surrounding artistic milieu.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:McMullan, A. and Nixon, M.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:80440
Date on Title Page:2017

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