Beckett Beyond the Normal

Edited by Seán Kennedy

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Explores Beckett’s artistic vision at the intersection of queer, disability and posthumanist studies
  • The first volume to address norms and normalcy as an enduring target of Beckettian skepticism
  • Shifts the emphasis from generic talk of ‘Other Becketts’ to specific accounts of the queer, the disabling, the abnormalising aspects of the mature works
  • Absorbs and transcends the philosophy/history binary that has shaped the last twenty years
  • Brings Beckett Studies into the twenty-first century as the first intersectional volume to address queerness, disability and biopolitics together

This book examines why Beckett’s writing is so queer, so disabled and disabling. Why did Beckett write so often about mental illness, disability, perversion? Why did he take such an interest in ‘abnormals’ and ‘degenerates’? How did he reconceive ‘the human’ in the wake of Hitler and Stalin? Drawing on Beckett’s voluminous archive, as well as his primary texts, the authors use psychoanalysis, queer theory, disability theory and biopolitics to push Beckett studies beyond the normal.


‘Here all is strange’: Beckett beyond the normal, Seán Kennedy

1 Murphy and the Tao of Autism, Joseph Valente

2 Narrating Disruption: Realist Fiction and the Politics of Form in Watt, William Davies

3 ‘no human shape’: Unformed Life in The Unnamable, Byron Heffer

4 Beckett, Evangelicalism and the Biopolitics of Famine, Seán Kennedy

5 ‘He wants to know if it hurts!’: Suffering beyond Redemption in Waiting for Godot, Hannah Simpson

6 ‘as if the sex matters’: Beckett, Barthes and Endgame in Love, James Brophy

7 Beckett’s Queer Time of Défaillance: Ritual and Resistance in Happy Days, Nic Barilar

8 Beckett’s Safe Words: Normalising Torture in How It Is, Dominic Walker


Notes on Contributors


These needle-sharp essays pierce the skin. They tattoo anew Beckett’s utter disdain for redemptive art and liberal humanism. Torture, starvation, disability are not metaphors. More, the essays shatter pieties in contemporary criticism: from autism studies to queer studies; from historical to psychoanalytic approaches. Once again, Seán Kennedy disorders the discipline.
James McNaughton, University of Alabama
Seán Kennedy is Professor of English with a specialisation in modern Irish literature and culture. He has published widely on the work of Samuel Beckett in Irish contexts, including Mercier and Camier by Samuel Beckett, edited with a preface (Faber and Faber, 2010), Beckett and Ireland (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Samuel Beckett: History, Memory, Archive, with Katherine Weiss (Palgrave, 2009). He is the founder of the binennial Queering Ireland conference organisation (2009-present), and is interested in psychoanalysis, queer studies and feminisms.

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