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  • 2013YehPhD

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Samuel Beckett's radio plays: Soundings in theory and aesthetic practice

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Tzu-Ching Yeh
Publication date2013
Number of pages285
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis examines Samuel Beckett’s exploration of the art of radio in his six
radio plays from 1957 onwards, from a range of aesthetic approaches and
literary-theoretical viewpoints. In doing so, I aim to foreground the literary merits of the radio drama and of Beckett’s distinctive aesthetic use of radio – an aspect of his work which is still relatively neglected. At the same time I move beyond internal
literary study of these works to situate both them and the medium of radio itself in their wider cultural and historical contexts, particularly the Second World War.

Chapter One evokes three local contexts for the study of Beckett’s radio plays:
the development of radio drama at the BBC prior to 1957, early European avant-garde radio theories, particularly those of Futurism and Surrealism, and Beckett’s own early fiction, which is preoccupied with themes of voice, silence and listening which radio explores further. Chapter Two examines psychoanalytic theories of trauma, and trauma studies in the humanities more generally, for what they can reveal to us about both the literary form and psychic content of the radio plays. The particular traumas mapped out in these texts are then related to that general matrix of trauma for Beckett, the Second World War. Chapter Three draws on the work of Michel Foucault, whose concepts of discipline, confinement and panopticon are applied to Rough for Radio II.

Chapter Four studies local instances of both silence and music in the radio drama, but also examines the way in which these two Beckettian motifs become a general programme towards minimalism that explains the overall trajectory of the six radio plays. Chapter Five seeks a way beyond the debate about whether Beckett is a modernist or postmodernist by exploring the concept of “late modernism” in relation to his radio drama.