Samuel Beckett selected critcism

Samuel Beckett - portraitThe biography of Beckett by Deirdre Bair [Samuel Beckett, 1975], while not having any particular critical pretensions itself, is a very useful adjunct to this list of Samuel Beckett criticism, containing as it does not only the background, context, composition and publishing details of the work but also a good deal of miscellaneous comment and anecdote from Beckett himself and his friends, in the form of interviews and correspondence. Enoch Brater’s Why Beckett (1989) takes the form of a pictorial biography, with over a hundred (often excellent) black-and-white photographs. There are some good points (and quotes) in the succinct text, too.

These biographical works have now been superseded by James Knowlson’s Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (1996), a work of great insight as well as scholarship by someone who was close to Beckett in his last years.

It is inevitably the case that Beckett features, often centrally, in many works on twentieth-century fiction and drama, where his place as an innovator and explorer of extremes is recognized. The Irish context of his work is also receiving more attention than formerly. See for example Beckett: The Irish Dimension by Mary Junker (1995), and the excellent short accounts of Beckett’s work given in Richard Kearney’s Transitions …, Robert Welch’s Changing States: Transformations in Modern Irish Writing (1993), and Declan Kiberd’s Inventing Ireland (1996).

[Works are listed here in chronological order.]

Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, New York: Doubleday, 1961.

Ruby Cohn, Samuel Beckett: The Comic Gamut, New Brunswick (NJ): Rutgers University Press, 1962.

Frederick J Hoffman, Samuel Beckett: The Language of Self, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962.

Martin Esslin (ed), Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays, Englewood Cliffs (NJ): Prentice-Hall, 1965.

John Fletcher, The Novels of Samuel Beckett, London: Chatto and Windus, 1964.

Raymond Federman, Journey to Chaos: Samuel beckett’s Early Fiction, Berkley (CA): University of California Press, 1965.


Samuel Beckett selected criticism The Complete Critical Guide to Samuel BeckettThe Complete Critical Guide to Samuel Beckett is a good introduction to the man and the writer. Includes a potted biography of Beckett, an outline of the stories, novels, plays, and poetry, and pointers towards the main critical writings – from the 1960s to critics of the present day. Also includes a thorough bibliography which covers biography, criticism in books and articles, plus pointers towards specialist journals. Samuel Beckett selected criticism Buy the book here


John Fletcher, Samuel Beckett’s Art, London: Chatto and Windus, 1967.

Ruby Cohn, A Casebook on ‘Waiting for Godot’, New York: Grove Press, 1967.

Ronald Hayman, Samuel Beckett, London: Heinemann, 1968.

Michael Robinson, The Long Sonata of the Dead: A study of Samuel Beckett, London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1970.

Raymond Federman and John Fletcher, Samuel Beckett: His Work and His Critics, Berkley (CA): University of California Press, 1970

Melvin J. Friedman (ed) Samuel Beckett Now: Critical Approaches to his Novels, Poetry, and Plays, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Francis Doherty, Samuel Beckett, London: Hutchinson, 1971.

Colin Duckworth, Angels of Darkness: Dramatic Effect in Beckett with Special Reference to Ionesco, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1972.

John Fletcher, Beckett: A Study of his Plays, New York: Hill and Wang, 1972.

Brian Finney, ‘How It Is’: A Study of Samuel Beckett’s Later Fiction, London: Covent Garden Press, 1972.

Al Alvarez, Samuel Beckett, New York: Viking, 1973.

Ruby Cohn, Back to Beckett, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Hugh Kenner, A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett, 1973.

H. Porter Abbott, The Fiction of Samuel Beckett, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973.

Ruby Cohn (ed), Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Criticism, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.

Hannah-Case Copeland, Art and the Artist in the works of Samuel Beckett, Paris: Mouton, 1975.

James Eliopulos, Samuel Beckett’s Dramatic Language, The Hague: Mouton, 1975.

Katherine Worth (ed), Beckett the Shape Changer, London: Routledge, 1975.

John Pilling, Samuel Beckett, 1976.

S.E. Gontarski, Beckett’s ‘Happy Days’: A Manuscript Study, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1977.

Beryl Fletcher et al, A Student’s Guide to
The Plays of Samuel Beckett
, London: Faber and Faber, 1978.

James Knowlson and John Pilling, Frescoes of the Skull: The Later Prose and Drama of Samuel Beckett, 1979.

Robin J. Davis, Samuel Beckett: Checklist and Index of his Published Works, Stirling: The Library: University of Stirling, 1979.


Beckett Illustrated Life - book jacketSamuel Beckett: an illustrated life gives a short account of Beckett’s little-known private life in a book which is packed with rare photographs and shots of his stage productions. The life is quite surprising: a priviledged upbringing, with talented academic prospects which he abandonded for a bohemian life. Fighting with the Maquis during the war. Little artistic success, but lots of relationships with women – and then the big breakthrough with Waiting for Godot. This is a stunning little book. Samuel Beckett selected criticism Buy the book here


Barbara R. Gluck, Beckett and Joyce: Friendship and Fiction, Lewisberg (PA): Bucknell University Press, 1979.

Lawrence Graver and Raymond Federman, Samuel beckett: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1979.

Ruby Cohn, Just Play: Beckett’s Theatre, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Helene L. Baldwin, Samuel Beckett’s Real Silence, 1981.

John C. DiPierro, Structures in Beckett’s ‘Watt’, York (SC): French Literature Publications, 1981.

J.E. Dearlove, Accommodating the Chaos: Samuel Beckett’s Nonrelational Art, Durham: Duke University Press, 1982.

Lance St. John Butler, Samuel Beckett and the Meaning of Being: A Study in Ontological Parable, 1984.

Virginia Cooke, Beckett on File, London: Methuen, 1985.

S.E. Gontarski, The Intent of ‘Undoing’ in Samuel Beckett’s Dramatic Texts, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Enoch Brater (ed), Beckett at 80/Beckett in Context, 1986.

S.E. Gontarski (ed) On Beckett: Essays and Criticism, New York: Grove Press, 1986.

John Calder (ed), As No Other Dare Fail: for Samuel Beckett on his 80th birthday, 1986.

James Knowlson (ed), Samuel Beckett: A Celebration, 1986.

Eoin O’Brien (ed), The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett’s Ireland, 1986.

Peter Gidal, Understanding Beckett: A Study of Monologue and Gesture in the Work of Samuel Beckett, London: Macmillan, 1986.

Ruby Cohn (ed) Samuel Beckett: ‘Waiting for Godot’: A Casebook, London: Macmillan, 1987.

Enoch Brater, Beyond Minimalism: Beckett’s Late Style in the Theatre, 1987.

James Acheson and Kateryna Arthur (eds), Beckett’s Later Fiction and Drama: Texts for Company, London: Macmillan, 1987.

Alan Warren Friedman et al, Beckett Translating/ Translating Beckett, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987.

Jane Alison Hale, The Broken Window: Beckett’s Dramatic Perspective, West Lafayette (IN): Purdue University Press, 1987.

Steven Connor, Samuel Beckett: Repetition, Theory and Text, Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.

Robin J. Davis and Lance St. John Butler (eds) Make Sense Who May: Essays on Samuel Beckett’s Later Works, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988.

Mary A. Doll, Beckett and Myth: An Archetypal Approach, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988.

Brian Fitch, Beckett and Babel: An Investigation into the Status of the Bilingual Work, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

Lawrence Graver, Samuel Beckett: ‘Waiting for Godot’, London: Thames and Hudson 1989.

Jonathan Kalb, Beckett in Performance, 1989.

Katherine Worth, ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Happy Days’, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990.

M.R. Axelrod, The Politics of Style in the Fiction of Balzac, Beckett, and Cortazar, 1992.

Steven Connor, ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Endgame’, New York: St Martin’s Press, 1992.

Anna McMullan, Theatre on Trial: Samuel Beckett’s Later Drama, 1993.

Eyal Amiran, Wandering and Home: Beckett’s Metaphysical Narrative, University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 1993.

Paul Davies, The Ideal Real: Beckett’s Fiction and Imagination, Toronto: Associated University Press, 1994.

Christopher Ricks, Beckett’s Dying Words, 1995.

H. Porter Abbott, Beckett Writing Beckett: The Author in the Autograph, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, London: Harper-Collins, 1996.

James Acheson, Samuel Beckett’s Artistic Theory and Practice: Criticism, Drama, and Early Fiction, New York: St Martin’s Press, 1997.

Thomas Coisineau, ‘Waiting for Godot’: Form in Movement, Boston: Twayne, 1990.

Anthony Farrow, Early Beckett: Art and Allusion in ‘More Pricks than Kicks’ and ‘Murphy’, Try (NY): Whitson, 1991.

S.E. Gontarski (ed) The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett, Vol 2: ‘Endgame’, London: Faber and Faber, 1992.

S.E. Gontarski (ed) The Beckett Studies Reader, Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1993.

S.E. Gontarski (ed) The Theatrical Notesbooks of Samuel Beckett, Vol 4: The Shorter Plays, London: Faber and Faber, 1993.

Lois Gordon, The World of Samuel Beckett, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.


Samuel Beckett – web links

Samuel Beckett web links Samuel Beckett at Mantex
Biographical notes, complete bibliography, selected criticism, book reviews, videos, and web links.

Samuel Beckett web links Resources Samuel Beckett Online Resources
This is a giant collection of papers, reviews, videos, journals. An old site, but packed with information. It looks very much like a labour of love by an enthusiast.

Samuel Beckett web links Exhibition Samuel Beckett Exhibition at University of Texas
Biograhical notes, manuscripts, mini-essays, a timeline, and illustrations.

Samuel Beckett web links The Samuel Beckett Endpage
Performances, illustrated journals, interviews, and conferences

Samuel Beckett web links Movies Samuel Beckett at the Internet Movie Database
Adaptations for the cinema and television – in various languages. Some very rare examples of television films of Beckett’s shorter and less well known works. Full technical details of directors, actors, and production.

Samuel Beckett web links Samuel Beckett at Literary History.com
Collection of articles on literary criticism, plus reviews.

Samuel Beckett web links Echo’s Bones – a newly discovered story

Samuel Beckett web links Samuel Beckett – at Wikipedia
Life and career, Works, Collaborators, Legacy, Honours and awards, Selected works, Further reading, Web links.

© Roy Johnson 1999-2002 – with thanks to Damian Grant


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