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Last modified: 25 Mar 2016 11:39

Course Overview

Whether composing works for the stage or the page, for radio, television or film, Beckett took perverse pleasure in revealing the failures of the artistic media he was working in:  actors on the stage reduced to talking heads or voiceless bodies, first-person novels narrated by voices unable to say ‘I’, radio dramas filled with silence, television plays where the main action is listening, and film featuring characters terrified of being seen.  This course explores and interrogates the fascinating process of reading, listening, and watching the art of failure exemplified byBeckett’s later works of short prose, theatre, radio, film and television. 

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Old Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr Adrienne Janus

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either English (EL) (Studied) or Literature In A World Context (LW) (Studied)
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)
  • Programme Level 4

What other courses must be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

'To be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail.' From his first successful piece of anti-theatre, 'Waiting for Godot', a drama in two acts where 'nothing happens'twice', Samuel Beckett applied his artistic credo to every genre and aesthetic form he worked in, turning the medium against itself and reducing it to the limits of its possibility. From his 1957 radio play 'All That Fall,' to the tape-recorded monologue ofa 'Krapp's Last Tape' (1958) to his 'Film' of 1965 starring Buster Keaton, to his 1976 prose piece 'Fizzles' illustrated by Jasper Johns, Beckett never ceased to interrogate the limits of aesthetic form and to challenge the audience to look, listen and read in new and difficult ways.

Setting a representative selection from Beckett's later theatre and short prose texts against his work for radio, television, and film, this course will evaluate the techniques behind Beckett's self-declared 'art of failure', analyzing the impact of new technology (radio, tape-recorder, television, cinema) on old media (print, stage), and exploring the range and mode of aesthetic perception associated with each medium.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: Essay 1 2,500-3,000 words (40%); Essay 2 2,500-3,000 words (40%); Seminar work (20%) regularity of participation and quality of ideas presented in class discussion.

Resit: For honours students only: candidates achieving a CAS mark of 6-8 may be awarded compensatory level 1 credit. Candidates achieving a CAS mark of less than 6 will be required to submit a new essay.

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.


Detailed written feedback on their essays; detailed oral feedback for their presentations.

Course Learning Outcomes


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