Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Samuel Becketted. by Katherine H. Burkman, and: Beckett's Later Fiction and Drama: Texts for Companyed. by James Acheson, Kateryna Arthur, and: On Beckett: Essays and Criticismed. by S. E. Gontarski (review)
- Comparative Drama
- Western Michigan University
- Volume 22, Number 4, Winter 1988-1989
- pp. 376-378
- View Citation
- Additional Information
376Comparative Drama Katherine H. Burkman, ed. Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Samuel Beckett. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987. Pp. 169. $24.50. James Acheson and Kateryna Arthur, eds. Beckett's Later Fiction and Drama: Texts for Company. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987. Pp. 206. $27.50. S. E. Gontarski, ed. On Beckett: Essays and Criticism. New York: Grove Press, 1986. Pp. 418. $12.95 (paper). Though I have no statistics to offer, my guess is that the Beckett industry is quickly becoming one of the most productive in the academic community. And on the occasion of the Nobel Prize winner's eightieth birthday, an abundance of books appeared. Three of these—all collections of essays by diverse hands and all engaging and insightful—prove that Beckett, like Didi and Gogo, is "inexhaustible." The most focused of the collections is Katherine H. Burkman's Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Samuel Beckett. Burkman has arranged the ten original pieces in three groupings: "Journeying," "Storytelling," and "Myth and Démythification," explaining each category in a brief introductory overview. The essays find common ground in their recognition of Beckett's insistent use of myth and ritual in the plays and novels. But their claims and their approaches are varied. Lois More Overbeck's essay on Endgame, for example, offers a strategy for analyzing Beckett's characters ' façon de vivre. Judith A. Roof's "A Blink in the Mirror" is an inquiry into two models that Beckett's myths often reflect: Oedipus and Narcissus. Susan Maughlin explores Victor Turner's concept of liminality in relation to Endgame. And Stephen Watt, in a theoretically poststructuralist piece, discusses Beckett's use of the green world, setting up a myth/ ritual binarism. One of the strongest essays in the collection is Susan D. Brienza's "Perilous Journeys on Beckett's Stages." Brienza traces the quest motif in Beckett's work, suggesting ways in which the writer retains the framework of myth while reshaping physical journeys into "psychological searches, metaphysical struggles, and linguistic voyages." Other contributors include Martha Fehsenfeld and Phyllis Carey, both on Happy Days, Rosette C. Lamont on Beckett's metaphysical clowns, Mary A. Doll on "Rites of Story: The Old Man at Play," and Claudia Clausius on Waiting for Godot. Though uneven in several respects—some essays are more ambitious than others, some more theoretical, some more gracefully written—the volume is a stimulating contribution to an important and complex aspect of Beckett's writing. Beckett's Later Fiction and Drama: Texts for Company, edited by James Acheson and Kateryna Arthur, is an anthology of thirteen original essays by a number of major figures in Beckett scholarship: Enoch Brater, Colin Duckworth, Martin Esslin, S. E. Gontarski, Rubin Rabinovitz, Katharine Worth, and others. The collection's emphasis on the more recent theater and prose pieces (which the Burkman collection neglects) makes it an especially attractive volume and a valuable resource for studying "minimal" Beckett. The quality of the essays in this collection is consistently high, the insights consistently illuminating. Reviews377 Essays on the prose include Rubin Rabinovitz, "The Self Contained: Beckett's Fiction in the 1960's," Brian Finney, "Still to Worstward Ho: Beckett's Prose Fiction Since The Lost Ones," Nicholas Zurbrugg, "/// Seen III Said and the Sense of an Ending," and Enoch Brater, "Voyelles, Cromlechs and the Special (W) rites of Worstward Ho." Each of these writers establishes connections between and among these later short pieces, noting intertextuality with Beckett's early work and with the work of other writers—notably, in Brater's essay, Rimbaud. Together, these four essays survey the prose writing from All Strange Away (1979) to Worstward Ho (1983), with special attention to /// Seen III Said and Worstward Ho. Essays on the late plays include Katharine Worth, "Past Into Future: Krapp's Last Tape to Breath," Charles R. Lyons, "Beckett's Fundamental Theatre: The Plays from Not 1 to What Where," and James Acheson, "The Shape of Ideas: That Time and Footfalls." Here, too, writers move freely through the Beckett canon, establishing connections. Collectively, the essays cover the plays from Krapp's Last Tape (1958) to What Where (1983), with Acheson concentrating on...