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Samuel Beckett and Sarah Kane: The Media of Violence

Class at Faculty of Arts |


Samuel Beckett and Sarah Kane: The Media of Violence

Darya Kulbashna, Valeriya Sabitova

Course Description:

The course aims at the exploration and deeper understanding of the multimedial phenomena of violence in the works of Samuel Beckett and Sarah Kane. The two playwrights became canonical theatrical figures of their time, which both foregrounds the importance of the present academic investigations, and explains the inevitable ties between Kane’s plays and the works of her predecessor — Beckett.

The course offers an analysis of violence on stage and in the texts, as well as its effects on the perceiving audience. These traditional media of violence in the theatrical realm will be supplemented by such topics as auto-violence, psychic violence, and the violence of silence among others.

Apart from getting familiar with the most known oeuvres by Beckett and Kane (e.g. Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Blasted, 4.48 psychosis, respectively), the students will gain a wider perspective on violence in various tangential types of arts. Thus, the course will suggest parallels with Francis Bacon, Paul Thek, Morton Feldman, Marina Abramović, and Kara


Course requirements:

To get the credit for the course, one in-class presentation is required on a chosen week’s topic. The students are required to consult the secondary sources on the course reading list but attempt their own critical reading of the primary and secondary material. The presentation

(ideally, with the PPT) should be no longer than 15 min and should end with the three questions for in-class question and answer sessions.

The final seminar paper shall have the scope of 2,500 words and will be due by the 20th of

January, 2023. Individual deadline extensions are possible, but need to be discussed with the lecturers in reasonable advance. N.B. Students need to discuss their final paper topics, bibliography, etc. with the lecturers ahead of the end of the course, i.e. by the first week of

December. Presentation topics may also be further pursued as the topics of the final paper. The final paper should be submitted as formatted properly according to MLA format.

Sessions: seminar, 90 min/week

Credit value: 5

Syllabus: 1. Introduction:

• The Media of Violence

• Samuel Beckett and Sarah Kane: shared spaces

• Performance: Kara Walker and Marina Abramovic

• Visual Arts: PaulThek and Francis Bacon

• Sound: Experimental Music (Morton Feldman) 2. Verbal Violence

• Samuel Beckett, Endgame (1958)

• Sarah Kane, Phaedra’s Love (1996) 3. Visual Violence

• Samuel Beckett, Not I (1972)

• Paul Thek, Technological Reliquaries, or Meat Pieces (1964–67), Pyramid/A

Work in Progress (1971–72, Moderna Museet, Stockholm) 4. The Violence of Sound

• Samuel Beckett, Words and Music (1961)

• Sarah Kane, Cleansed (1998) 5. Violence, Performance, Body, Visibility

• Samuel Beckett, Act Without Words I (1957)

• Marina Abramovic, Rhythm 0 (1974), Rhythm 2 (1974) 6. Textual Violence

• Samuel Beckett, Lessness (1969)

• Sarah Kane, 4.48 Psychosis (2000) 7. Psychic Violence

• Samuel Beckett, Play (1962)

• Sarah Kane, Crave (1998) 8. The Violence of Philosophy

• Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1952)

• Sarah Kane, Blasted (1995)

• Kara Walker, A Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale (2011), Endless

Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress (2001) 9. Auto-Violence

• Samuel Beckett, Cascando (1962)

• Marina Abramovic, Rhythm 10 (1973) 10. The Violence of Silence

• Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953)

• Francis Bacon, Selected Paintings of the 1940s 11. The Violence of Reception 12. Closure.



Abramovic, Marina. Public Lecture.

Bacon, Francis.

Beckett, Samuel. The Complete Dramatic Works. Faber and Faber, 1986.

Beckett, Samuel. The Complete Short Prose 1929-1989. Grove Press, 1995.

Beckett, Samuel. The Unnamable. Faber and Faber, 2010.

Kane, Sarah. Complete Plays. London, New York: Bloomsbury. 2006.

Kane, Sarah.. Skin.1995.

Kara Walker.


Acheson, James. ‘Chess With the Audience: Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame”’ Critical Quarterly, 22 (2): 33-45.

Baraniecka, Elzbieta Iwona. “Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis” in Sublime Drama: British Theatre of the 1990s. Berlin: De Gruyter. 2013) (pages 205-250).

Beckett, Samuel. Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit. J. Calder, 1987.

Bernstein, Anna. "Marina Abramovic and the Public Body." In Human Body as a Universal

Sign, edited by Wiesna Mond-Kozlowska, 285-290. Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press, 2003.

Bersani, Leo and Ulysse Dutoit. Arts of Impoverishment: Beckett, Rothko, Resnais. Harvard

University Press, 1993.

Billington, Michael. Affair of the Heart. British Theatre from 1992 to 2020. London, New

York, Oxford, New Dehli, Sydney: Methuen Drama, Bloomsbury, 2022

Boyce, Brynhildur. ‘Tuning In/Tuning Up: The Communicative Efforts of Words and Music in Samuel Beckett’s Words and Music’ in Beckett and Musicality. Ashgate, 2014.

Brienza, Susan and Enoch Brater, ‘Chance and Choice in Beckett’s Lessness’ ELH, Vol. 43,

No.2 (Summer 1976,): 244-158.

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Vintage Books, 1942.

Coetzee, J.M. ‘Samuel Beckett’s “Lessness”: An Exercise in Decomposition’ Computers and the Humanities, Vol.7, No.4 (March 1973): 195-198.

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon. The Logic of Sensation. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. London, New

York: Continuum., 2002. (Chapters 1, 3-6, 8, 9)

De Vos, Laurens. Cruelty and Desire in the Modern Theater: Antonin Artaud, Sarah Kane, and

Samuel Beckett. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011.

D’Monté, Rebecca and Saunders, Graham, eds. Cool Britannia? British Political Drama in the 1990s. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

De Vos, Laurens, and Saunders, Graham, eds.Sarah Kane In Context. Manchester and New

York: Manchester University Press, 2010.

Esslin, Martin. The Theater of the Absurd. Vintage, 2004.

Feldman, Morton. Give My Regards To Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman.

Exact Change, 2004.

Furlani, Andre. Beckett After Wittgenstein. Northwestern University Press, 2015. - Chapter 2:

Pain and Privacy

Gontarski, S.E. The Edinburgh Companion to Samuel Beckett and the Arts. Edinburgh

University Press, 2014.

Gould, Thomas. Silence in Modern Literature and Philosophy: Beckett, Barthes, Nancy,

Stevens. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. - Chapter 3: Broken Silence: Samuel Beckett

Henri, Michel. The Essence of Manifestation. Trans. Girard Etzcorn. The Hague: Martinus

Nijhoff, 1963: Pages 459-520

Holdsworth, Nadine and Luckhurst, Mary, eds.A Concise Companion to British and Irish

Drama. 2008

Howardena Pindell, 'Diaspora /Realities/Strategies', in Kara Walker-No/Kara WalkerYes/Kara Walker-? Ed.

Howardena Pindell. New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 2009.

Kritzer, Amelia Howe. Political Theater in post-Thatcher Britain 1995-2005. Palgrave

Macmillan, 2008.

Langlois, Christopher. Samuel Beckett and the Terror of Literature. Edinburgh University

Press, 2017. - Chapter 1

Laws, Catherine . ‘Music in “Words and Music”: Feldman’s Response to Beckett’s Play’

Samuel Beckett Today Vol.11 (2001): 279-290.

Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. The Violence of Language. Routledge, 1990. - esp. Chapter 6

Levin, David Michael. "The Embodiment of Performance." Salmagundi Vol. 31/32( 175- 1976): Pages 120-142.

Litzler, Agnes Maria. The influence of Absurdist Theater on Contemporary In-Yer-Face Plays:

A Comparative Analysis of Plays, from Samuel Beckett to Sarah Kane. VDM Verlag Dr.

Muller, 2011.

Nevitt, Lucy. Theater & Violence. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Oppenheim, Lois. Samuel Beckett and the Arts: Music, Visual Arts, and Non-Print Media.

Garland Publishing, 1999.

Sierz, Alex. In-yer-face Theater: British Drama Today. London: Faber and Faber, 2001.

Saunders, Graham. ‘Love Me or Kill Me': Sarah Kane and the Theater of Extremes.

Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.

Uhlmann, Anthony. Beckett and Poststructuralism. Cambridge University Press, 1999. -

Chapter 6: Language, between violence and justice: Beckett, Levinas, and Derrida

Wall, David. "Transgression, Excess, and the Violence of Looking in the Art of Kara Walker."

Oxford Art Journal. Vol. 33 No. 3 (2010): 277-299.

Wixson, Christopher.""In Better Places": Space, Identity, and Alienation in Sarah Kane's

"Blasted"." Comparative Drama. Vol. 39. No.1 (2005): pages 75-91.

Quigley, Karen. Performing the Unstageable. Success, Imagination, Failure. Ed. Mark

Taylor-Battyand and Enoch Brater. London, New York, Oxford, New Dehli, Sydney:

Methuen Drama, Bloomsbury, 2020.