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The television plays

This study analyses Samuel Beckett's television plays in relation to the history and theory of television, arguing that they are in dialogue with innovative television traditions connected to Modernism in television, film, radio, theatre, literature and the visual arts. Using original research from BBC archives and manuscript sources, it provides new perspectives on the relationships between Beckett's television dramas and the wider television culture of Britain and Europe. The book also compares and contrasts the plays for television with Beckett's Film and broadcasts of his theatre work including the Beckett on Film season. Chapters deal with the production process of the plays, the broadcasting contexts in which they were screened, institutions and authorship, the plays' relationships with comparable programmes and films, and reaction to Beckett's screen work by audiences and critics.

Open Access (free)
Trying to understand Beckett
Editor:

Nothing' has been at the centre of Samuel Beckett's reception and scholarship from its inception. This book explains how the Beckett oeuvre, through its paradoxical fidelity to nothing, produces critical approaches which aspire to putting an end to interpretation: in this instance, the issues of authority, intertextuality and context, which this book tackles via 'nothing'. By retracing the history of Beckett studies through 'nothing', it theorises a future for the study of Beckett's legacies and is interested in the constant problem of value in the oeuvre. Through the relation between Beckett and nothing, the relation between voice and stone in Jean-Paul Sartre and Beckett, we are reminded precisely of the importance of the history of an idea, even the ideas of context, influence, and history. The book looks at something that has remained a 'nothing' within the Beckett canon so far: his doodles as they appear in the Human Wishes manuscript. It also looks at the material history of televisual production and places the aesthetic concerns of Beckett's television plays. The book then discusses the nexus between nothing and silence in order to analyse the specific relations between music, sound, and hearing. It talks about the history of materiality through that of neurology and brings the two into a dialogue sustained by Beckett texts, letters and notebooks. The book investigates the role of nothing through three works called neither and Neither: Beckett's short text, Morton Feldman's opera, and Doris Salcedo's sculptural installation.

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Jonathan Bignell

This introductory chapter discusses Samuel Beckett and his works that were adapted for British television and radio. It considers the question of whether Beckett's television plays are single ‘literary’ dramas or part of a larger series. It also identifies some critical traditions in Television Studies. The final section of the chapter presents an overview of the following chapters.

in Beckett on screen
Open Access (free)
Beckett’s television plays and the idea of broadcasting
Jonathan Bignell

In the context of a tradition of critical discussion that characterises Samuel Beckett's plays for television as attempts to engage with nothingness, absence and death, this chapter argues that the television plays are critical explorations of the problematics of presence and absence inherent in the conceptions and histories of broadcasting. Television as a medium and a physical apparatus sets up spatial and temporal relationships between programmes and their viewers, relationships with which Beckett's television plays are in dialogue. The conceptions of medium and audience that Beckett's television plays suggest can be understood in terms of the contrasting implications of broadcasting as dissemination. Broadcasting is dissemination in good faith, despite its haunting by the prospect that some of what is broadcast will turn out to be a dead letter sent into the void.

in Beckett and nothing
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Jonathan Bignell

This chapter discusses the formation of and the critical response to a canon of British television drama in terms of a conflict between aesthetic modernism and critical realism. It notes that some of the critics' responses to Beckett's work in the 1970s reflected the critical debate of the time over the politics of naturalistic versus avant-garde form. It determines that Beckett's television plays are placed within a complex dialectic of critical discourses around the aesthetics and politics of television drama, and part of this debate is about the address to the television audience. Finally, this chapter tries to link critical work on Beckett's television plays with discursive models of how television audiences were imagined by critics, television institutions and authors.

in Beckett on screen
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Jonathan Bignell

This chapter takes a look at the most sustained work on the intertextual relationships between Beckett's television drama and other work by him and by others. It examines the association between authored television drama with discourses of ‘quality’, and discusses some matters of visual design, music and literary reference in television plays. It discusses the relationship between uses of visual space in Beckett's television plays and Film and his theatrical works. It also addresses some questions of performance related to ‘theatricality’ and the prevalent motif identified by Beckett critics of increasing formal simplicity or minimalism in his theatre.

in Beckett on screen
Jonathan Bignell

This chapter discusses the broadcasting contexts where Beckett's television plays were made and shown. It examines some archival sources, which places the scheduling and promotional contexts of the plays in comparison with and in contrast to other television drama forms. It shows that Beckett's dramas for British television were screened in arts programming slots on BBC2, instead of the customary scheduling positions and drama series of the time. It also mentions BBC radio, which was committed to broadcasting original experimental drama in the Third Programme (now known as Radio 3), including Beckett's radio plays. This chapter also shows that his plays work both with and against television cultures, and draw attention to their distinctiveness.

in Beckett on screen
Ulrika Maude

1 Beckett's television plays confound the spectator, not least because of their representational ambiguity, their perplexing affective qualities and the singularity of their poetics. Of the five plays Beckett wrote specifically for television, Ghost Trio , his second teleplay, written in 1975, is considered by most critics to be his finest work for the medium. Filmed by the BBC in October 1976, and by Süddeutscher Rundfunk (SDR) the following year, it opens with V, the female voice, describing the set as ‘grey’ in its

in Beckett and media
Open Access (free)
Beckett and television technologies
Jonathan Bignell

, production methods on Beckett's television plays were unusual in their relationships between image and sound and in the technology used to realise them (Bignell, 2003 ). One of the similarities between the 1986 and 2013 versions is that both were shot as-live, with multiple cameras. In other words, each actor had a camera and a light just a few feet away from his face, and all of the cameras were shooting at the same time while the lines were spoken in a continuous performance. By contrast, after the waning of live television drama production in the 1970s, the great

in Beckett and media
Open Access (free)
Balazs Rapcsak
and
Mark Nixon

media, especially in terms of his theatrical output. As such there have also been dedicated studies of Beckett's TV plays, such as monographs by Graley Herren ( Samuel Beckett's Plays on Film and Television ; 2007 ) or Jonathan Bignell ( Beckett on Screen: The Television Plays ; 2009 ), and a growing number of essays. Beckett's work in film and his relationship with cinema has similarly spawned a variety of approaches, including Anthony Paraskeva's Samuel Beckett and Cinema ( 2017 ). Beckett's radio plays have also increasingly become the object of scholarly

in Beckett and media