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Beckett's Breath

Anti-Theatricality and the Visual Arts

Sozita Goudouna

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Examines the intersection of Samuel Beckett’s thirty-second playlet Breath with the visual arts

Samuel Beckett, one of the most prominent playwrights of the twentieth century, wrote a thirty-second playlet for the stage that does not include actors, text, characters or drama but only stage directions. Breath (1969) is the focus and the only theatrical text examined in this study, which demonstrates how the piece became emblematic of the interdisciplinary exchanges that occur in Beckett's later writings, and of the cross-fertilisation of the theatre with the visual arts. The book attends to fifty breath-related artworks (including sculpture, painting, new media, sound art, performance art) and contextualises Beckett's Breath within the intermedial and high-modernist discourse thereby contributing to the expanding field of intermedial Beckett criticism.

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Preface, David Cunningham
Introduction: In The Same Breath: From the Black Box to the White Cube and Beyond
Part I: Respiration, Presence, Modernist Discourse and the Question of Medium Specificity
1. Deeptime: Breath and the Look of Non Art
2. The Durational Turn: Absorption and The Specificity of Temporality
Part II: (Re)Presenting Breath
3. Shortness of Breath: Beckett’s Breath in Context
4. Emptied of Theatre: Breath and the Phenomenology of Disembodiment
PART III: The Exhaled Field
5. Waste of Breath: The Readymade as a Stage Set
6. Intermedial Breath: Defying the Boundaries between Displaying and Staging
7. The Aesthetics of Respiration: Breathing in Different Media
Endnotes: The Afterlives of Breath: Breathe, Breathe Again…Breathe Better

About the Author

Sozita Goudouna is Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Performa Institute in New York. She co-curates, with Paul B. Preciado, a project for ‘The Parliament of Bodies’ at Documenta 14 and was a consultant for the Onassis Festival NYC in 2016.


Ms Sozita Goudouna’s book left me breathless.

- Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research

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