Emory Report
March 2, 2009
Volume 61, Number 22



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March 2
, 2009
Contemporary peers will honor Beckett

By Elaine Justice

When Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee and Emory Distinguished Writer in Residence Salman Rushdie take the stage on St. Patrick’s Day to give readings of some of the early letters of Samuel Beckett, they’ll be paying tribute to the publication of the first volume of the Irish-born writer’s letters, a milestone in literary circles worldwide.

Albee and Rushdie will be joined by actors Brenda Bynum and Robert Shaw-Smith for “Fundamental Sounds: The Early Letters of Samuel Beckett,” at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 in Glenn Memorial Auditorium. Admission is free.

“The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929–1940,” published recently by Cambridge University Press, is the first volume in the first comprehensive edition of the Nobel laureate’s letters. The road to the volume’s publication began in 1985 when Beckett himself authorized Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck as editors. They gathered the author’s voluminous correspondence — more than 15,000 letters — in public and private collections.

The project became affiliated with Emory’s Graduate School in 1990, and with its support, received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1991–97, 2008-10) and the Florence Gould Foundation (1992–94, 1995–97, 1998–00). The project also has served as a laboratory for humanities research by involving students in the work.

Translated into more than 50 languages, Beckett’s work is held in highest esteem by a large, diverse and international audience. Beckett extended the limits of fiction, drama, poetry and criticism and wrote drama for stage, radio, television and film. Close associations with theatre artists, painters and musicians resulted in much collaboration during his lifetime, just as his texts have continued to inspire artists, composers and other writers to create new work.

As playwright Tom Stoppard has said, “the prospect of reading Beckett’s letters quickens the blood like none other’s and one must hope to stay alive until the fourth volume is safely delivered.”

Albee, called “the world’s greatest living playwright,” must share Stoppard’s enthusiasm. As part of the Beckett celebration, Albee will participate in “A Creativity Conversation” with Rosemary Magee, vice president and secretary of the University, at 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 at the Center for Ethics, Room 102.

Related Beckett celebration events include:

• Beckett Film Marathon, 4–10 p.m., Thursday, March 19 in White Hall, Room 110. Admission is free.

• Vocal sextet Lionheart with Vega String Quartet, featuring Phil Kline’s composition, “John the Revelator,” which sets passages from Beckett’s novel, “The Unnamable,” to music, 8 p.m., Friday, March 20, part of the Flora Glenn Candler Concert Series, Schwartz Center, Emerson Concert Hall.

For information and tickets contact Arts at Emory Box Office: 404-727-5050 or boxoffice@emory.edu.

To learn more about the project, including an inside look at the editing process, visit
www.graduateschool.emory.edu/beckettletters, soon to be launched by the Graduate School.