© 2018

Samuel Beckett's Critical Aesthetics

  • Makes a significant diversion from dominant readings of Beckett, which tend to see little political or social interest behind his philosophical concerns

  • Offers an important contribution to Beckett studies as well as contemporary debates surrounding representation and the role of vision in twentieth-century literature

  • Examines the development of Beckett's aesthetics from the 1930s through to the 1970s


Table of contents

About this book


This book considers how Samuel Beckett’s critical essays, dialogues and reflections drew together longstanding philosophical discourses about the nature of representation, and fostered crucial, yet overlooked, connections between these discourses and his fiction and poetry. It also pays attention to Beckett’s writing for little-magazines in France from the 1930s to the 1950s, before going on to consider how the style of Beckett’s late prose recalls and develops figures and themes in his critical writing. By providing a long-overdue assessment of Beckett’s work as a critic, this study shows how Beckett developed a new aesthetic in knowing dialogue with ideas including phenomenology, Kandinsky’s theories of abstraction, and avant-garde movements such as Surrealism. This book will be illuminating for students and researchers interested not just in Beckett, but in literary modernism, the avant-garde, European visual culture and philosophy.


Philosophy Ethics Prose Canon Translation

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of YorkYorkUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Tim Lawrence is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre, University of York, UK. He has articles and reviews published in outlets including the Journal of Beckett Studies and Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui. His research interests lie in the European avant-garde, phenomenology, and twentieth-century visual culture.

Bibliographic information


“It will be of valuable use to Beckettian scholars and students. It will also be of interest to students and researchers in literary modernism, the avant-garde, European visual culture and philosophy. … this book is well worth reading for the insight it gives into the context of Beckett’s essays and their ongoing discussion of issues pertaining to vision and aesthetics.” (Pascale Sardin, Cercles,, July 15, 2019)“With this book, Tim Lawrence delivers a long overdue examination of Beckett’s critical writings. Samuel Beckett’s Critical Aesthetics not only offers a sensitive, perceptive reading of these texts, but also reveals the way in which they establish an aesthetic and philosophical dialogue with Beckett’s creative enterprise. Drawing on a wide range of archival and critical sources, Lawrence’s study will surely establish itself as the indispensable guide to Beckett’s critical thought.” (Dr Mark Nixon, Co-Director, Beckett International Foundation)

“Tim Lawrence has written the first sustained analysis of Samuel Beckett’s critical writings, which are masterfully read within the context of their intellectual history. His readings are subtle, nuanced and illuminating. This book will offer an indispensable point of reference for future critical studies of Beckett’s work.” (Dr Ulrika Maude, Reader in Modernism and Twentieth-Century Literature, University of Bristol, UK)