Research Seminar on Samuel Beckett

8 Mar 2019

Samuel Beckett and (post)colonial France: the politics of domesticity

Prof. Hélène Lecossois (Lille)

Thursday March 14 @ 17.00

ORB 1.24


This paper argues for the validity of reading Samuel Beckett’s shorter plays historically, even (and most especially) the ones which are apparently the most cut off from history. Plays such as Rough for Theatre II (late 1950s), Happy Days (1961) and Play (1962-3) will be analysed against the historical, social and political contexts of their production with special attention to the overall context of France’s modernisation and decolonization. The story of the modernisation of French metropolitan society and the story of the crumbling of its colonial empire have repeatedly been apprehended as two distinct stories. However, following the lead of cultural historian Kristin Ross, and thinking of these two stories as intrinsically linked, allows one to expose France’s middle class retrenchment from politics through the fallacy of a depoliticized home. Accordingly, this paper proposes to read the overtly self-referential characteristics of Beckett’s “domestic” plays as ways of denouncing the retrenchment from politics of the French middle classes, and ties them into the contemporary anti-colonial struggles taking place in Algeria.


Hélène Lecossois is Professor of Irish Literary Studies at the University of Lille (France). The primary focus of her research is the relation of theatre to history. Her research interests include modernism, twentieth-century Irish drama, postcolonial and performance studies. She is currently completing a book on J. M. Synge and Ireland’s colonial modernity and editing one on “Conflicting Memories: Arts, History, Commemorations”.

Department of French

Room 1.22 Block A, First Floor, O'Rahilly Building, University College Cork