A London Beckett Seminar conference
Friday 1 – Saturday 2 June 2017, Senate House


Keynote: Lois More Overbeck, Emory University, Director, Letters of Samuel Beckett Project

What does it mean to correspond with Beckett? How does Beckett’s correspondence give us insight into the work? In what ways are critical reading and writing a form of correspondence with an author? What would it mean to perform the epistolary? The publication of the fourth and final volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett marks an appropriate moment to take stock of the role of autobiography in research, and the importance of the epistolary in literary studies. A recent review by Cal Revely-Calder cautions that letters “are not propositions, manifestos, or statements of intent”, but rather “rough forays, conducted in private”. Corresponding with Beckett raises issues around the development of the “grey canon” (S.E. Gontarski), the use of digital resources, translation, visual metadata, and the role of corollary correspondence. Given Beckett’s hesitation to render the personal public, the conference will address how we negotiate issues of privacy, permissions, and copyright. The conference will generate new thinking on the letter as artefact, the textual and stylistic aspects of the epistolary, and will explore the legacy of a correspondence project and how the research that underpins it can be deployed for further research. Using literary correspondence and related materials raises older literary questions on authorial intention and reading methodologies that continue to inform literary analysis. In the age of Snapchat and WhatsApp, correspondence is primarily digital: the conference will question the longevity of contemporary digital correspondence, and explore strategies for future engagement with the epistolary in literary research.

Topics to be addressed include, but are not limited to:

  • The epistolary
  • The legacy of the archive
  • Digital correspondence
  • Privacy and copyright
  • Translation
  • The “grey canon”
  • Corollary correspondences
  • Visual metadata
  • Location registers
  • Ethics and the epistolary
  • Authorial intentionality
  • Literary criticism as correspondence
  • Performing letters

Proposals for 20 min papers should be sent to londonbeckettseminar@gmail.com by 1 March 2018, and should include:

  • Title of the presentation
  • Abstract of approximately 300 words
  • Biographical statement of approximately 100 words
  • Details of audio-visual requirements
  • Indication of any enhanced access requirements


Stefano Rosignoli, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin.

Dr Derval Tubridy, Goldsmiths, University of London.