Samuel Beckett and Roland Barthes: a 'dialogue de sourds'

This two-day symposium will bring together Barthes and Beckett scholars to discuss these two iconic twentieth-century figures.


‘Waiting’, ‘Silence’, ‘Fade Out’, ‘The Absent One’: these figures from Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse (1977) are some of the most recursive tropes and preoccupations of Samuel Beckett’s fictional, dramatic and poetic œuvre, just as the latter is, quite plausibly, an essential constituent of the cultural ‘Image-repertoire’ on and within which many of Barthes’s own discursive writings operate. And yet, kinship between these two iconic twentieth-century figures — nourished in turn by a dense network of shared cultural, intellectual and political influences — has remained latent at the very best. 
“Samuel Beckett and Roland Barthes: a ‘dialogue de sourds’” is the first academic conference of its kind to provide the means for this dialogue to finally take place and be heard. True to the conjunctive spirit of its title, the two-day symposium will bring together Barthes and Beckett scholars to facilitate, from our contemporary vantage point, a belated and overdue conversation between the writers.

In so doing, we aim to carry on from where Herbert Blau left it in his rigorous yet teasingly inconclusive account of the resonance between the works of the two figures in ‘Barthes and Beckett: the Punctum, the Pensum and the Dream of Love’ (2004). Seeing that the humanities generally, and the field of Beckett Studies particularly, are under the sway of an ‘empirical turn’, we aim  to (re)historicize Barthes’s and Beckett’s cohabitation of the post-War French milieu and any potential crossing of their paths through archival or other sources. The conference will also explore other methodologies of thinking about this ostensibly missed encounter, those which are not necessarily constrained by considerations of falsifiability in the empirical method.      

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Friday 26 April 2019

13:30-13:45 Welcome of the participants 

13:45-14:00 Opening of the symposium by the organisers

Session 1 - 14:00-16:00 Chair: Nigel Saint (French, Leeds)

14:00 Leslie Hill (Warwick) - ‘“J’aime, je n’aime pas”: Barthesian likes and dislikes’

15:00 Diana Leca (Oxford) - ‘Tranquil Scenes’

16:00-16:15 Tea and coffee

Session 2 - 16:15-18:15 Chair: Angelos Koutsourakis (World Cinemas, Leeds)

16:15 Anthony Paraskeva (Roehampton) - ‘Beckett, Barthes and the Resistance to Cinema’

17:15 Thomas Gould (Courtauld Institute) - ‘“The graphic event”: Beckett’s and Barthes’s drawings’

19:45 Conference dinner at the Reliance

Saturday 27 April 2019

09:30 Tea and coffee

Session 3 - 10:00-12:00 Chair: Richard Brown (English, Leeds)

10:00 Jean-Michel Rabaté (U. Penn) - ‘Beckett’s Sade / Barthes’s Zade’

11:00 Llewellyn Brown (Paris) - ‘Barthes and Beckett: the image, the One and the real’

12:00-13:00 Lunch

Session 4 - 13:00-15:00 Chair: Eric Prenowitz (Cultural Studies, Leeds)

13:00 Anna McMullan (Reading) - ‘Shifting Concepts of Theatre, Body and the Visible in Barthes and Beckett’

14:00 Arthur Rose (Bristol) - ‘Barthes, Beckett and Breath’

15:00-15:15 Tea and coffee

15:15-16:00 Round table and closing remarks 


Co-organised by Jivitesh Vashisht (PhD candidate, English), Dr Andy Stafford (French) and Dr Claire Lozier (French and World Cinemas)  

Funded by the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, the Centre for World Cinemas, Institut Français, the Society for French Studies, and the British Comparative Literature Association.

Please visit La France au Royaume-Uni for more information.

The ESRI, SFS and BCLA logos for the Barthes and Beckett conference.