Beckett on screen

Beckett on screen: The television Plays

JONATHAN BIGNELL
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt155jd3r
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Beckett on screen
    Book Description:

    This ground-breaking study analyses Beckett’s television plays in relation to the history and theory of television. It argues that they are in dialogue with innovative television traditions connected to Modernism in television, film, radio, theatre, literature and the visual arts. Using original research from BBC archives and manuscript sources, the book provides new perspectives on the relationships between Beckett’s television dramas and the wider television culture of Britain and Europe. It also compares and contrasts the plays for television with Beckett’s Film and broadcasts of his theatre work including the recent Beckett on Film season. Chapters deal with the production process of the plays, the broadcasting contexts in which they were screened, institutions and authorship, the plays’ relationships with comparable programmes and films, and reaction to Beckett’s screen work by audiences and critics. This book is a major contribution to Beckett scholarship and to studies of television drama. It will be essential reading in literature and drama studies, television historiography and for devotees of Beckett’s work.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-433-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book primarily addresses Samuel Beckettʹs television dramas broadcast in Britain, fromEh Joein 1966 toQuadin 1982. The broadcasting of Beckettʹs theatre work on British television has a long history that runs parallel to his writing specifically for the television medium. For this reason the book includes comparative discussion of some broadcasts of television adaptations of theatre plays written by Beckett, including theBeckett on Filmseries of adaptations of each of his theatre plays, which were made for Channel 4 and the Irish channel RTE and first screened in Britain in 2001. The book also discusses...

  5. 1 Production
    (pp. 17-51)

    This chapter examines the significance of the production technologies used in making the five dramas written by Beckett for television and compares and contrasts these production technologies with those used in realisingFilmand television adaptations of theatre texts by Beckett. The British television plays were recorded in television studios and were shot on film, with the exception ofEh Joe(1966), which was a videotape production. The German productions of Beckettʹs plays in the 1980s were also made on videotape. The plays were not transmitted live, but Beckettʹs insistence on long takes, with little post-production editing, associates them both...

  6. 2 Broadcasting contexts
    (pp. 52-87)

    Beckettʹs plays for British television were not screened in drama anthology series on the mass audience channels BBC1 or ITV, but in arts programming slots on BBC2, and this militated against considering them in relation to work by an emerging canon of television writers. So while Beckettʹs television plays lend themselves to being considered in the dominant critical discourses around authored drama, the fact that they were not screened in drama anthology slots separates them from the canon being developed by critics of the time. Archival work discussed in this chapter places the different scheduling and trailing contexts of the...

  7. 3 Institutions and authorship
    (pp. 88-124)

    In television and film it is very common for institutional constraints and working practices to remove control over production decisions from the author and for directorial decisions to be influenced by the demands of the broadcasting institution and, in particular, its perception of the desires and competencies of the audience. But on the other hand, the cultural authority of the mass media of radio and then television as cultural forms were bolstered by employing established literary figures as writers, directors or producers, making programmes featuring interviews with and features on literary figures, or presenting adaptations of their work. As Ros...

  8. 4 Intertexts
    (pp. 125-163)

    This chapter addresses the relationships between uses of visual space in Beckettʹs television works andFilmand his theatrical works. It also uses reference to Beckett’s novels and prose essays on painting and other topics to discuss visual space, framing, and spectator positioning, and relates these to interpretations of the television works. This involves discussion of formal and compositional issues, and aesthetic and philosophical theories of vision in Beckettʹs oeuvre, considered in relation to theories of visual meaning in Television Studies discourses. It also requires a discussion of the prevalent motif identified by Beckett critics of increasing formal simplicity or...

  9. 5 Evaluations
    (pp. 164-201)

    As earlier chapters have shown, critical response to the canon of British television drama from the 1960s to the present focuses on oppositions between critical realism and aesthetic modernism. Criticsʹ responses to Beckettʹs work reflected the changing emphases of this critical debate over naturalistic political drama versus avant-garde form. The movement of British television drama from the 1960s to today has been away from theatricality and Modernist experiment with the medium, in favour of elaborations of filmic naturalism, seen as relevant, contemporary and politically progressive. Thus Beckettʹs television plays are situated within a complex dialectic of critical discourses around the...

  10. 6 Afterword: the lessons of history
    (pp. 202-208)

    The specificity of Beckettʹs work in a Modernist tradition of television drama has important input into debates within Television Studies concerning authorship, institutions, audiences, and the writing of the history of British television. The methodologies and theoretical frameworks of Television Studies are essential research resources for scholars working on Beckettʹs television plays, and the plays cannot be adequately understood without reference to these contexts. Research into Beckettʹs television work is important to Beckett Studies because of the different relationships between the aesthetics of this popular mass medium and the media of literature and theatre that have been more familiar to...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-222)
  12. Index
    (pp. 223-230)