David Lloyd Analyzes Influence of Art and Artists on Samuel Beckett

Scholar will discuss his new book, “Beckett’s Thing: Painting and Theatre,” on Dec. 6

David Lloyd

David Lloyd

RIVERSIDE, California – Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s fascination with paintings and painters, and their influence on his dramatic work are the subject of a new book by David C. Lloyd, distinguished professor of English at the University of California, Riverside.

Beckett’s Thing: Painting and Theatre” (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) analyzes what Beckett saw in the works of painters such as Jack B. Yeats, Bram van Velde, and Avigdor Arikha, and how they influenced his plays. It is the first book to focus mainly on the paintings on which Beckett based his principles of art criticism.

Lloyd will discuss his research in a book talk presented by the UCR Center for Ideas and Society on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 3:30 p.m. in College Building South 114. The event is free and open to the public. Parking permits may be obtained at the kiosk on West Campus Drive, at the University Avenue entrance to the campus.

Becket was a novelist, playwright, and poet who is considered to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

“I’ve been writing about Beckett for years, having started to read him as a teenager in Dublin, where I grew up in much the same part of the world as he did,” Lloyd said. “I was interested in Irish modernism and its relation to international modernism since the mid-1970s, when a series of international art exhibitions took place in Dublin, introducing us to abstract expressionism and pop art.”

Beckett wrote about the work of Jack B. Yeats, a close friend and the brother of poet W.B. Yeats, and the writer’s art criticisms intrigued Lloyd while he was a student at Cambridge University.

“His ‘Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit’ were quite well known and are seen as Beckett’s statement of his own artistic principles,” Lloyd said. “But I got interested in what it was he was seeing in the painters he wrote about, who are not the obvious 20th century canon – Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Mondrian, Pollock, for example, who might have been seen as obvious counterparts – but quite minor ones.  And I also began thinking about Beckett’s theater as itself visual art.”

Literary critics typically are interested in texts and their interpretation, he said.

“I realized that Beckett’s plays are very painterly: If you freeze the action at almost any point, you can see a very beautifully composed painting,” Lloyd said.  “That’s how I gradually got interested in this topic.”

Lloyd joined the UCR faculty in 2013. He holds a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in literature and colonialism from Cambridge University. He is a poet and playwright, and the author of several books, among them “Nationalism and Minor Literature,” “Ireland After History,” and “Irish Culture and Colonial Modernity: The Transformation of Oral Space.”

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