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LTEN 132: Samuel Beckett: Home

Online Encyclopedias, Companions, Dictionaries

Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Edited by David Scott Kastan. Oxford University Press, 2006. The article on Beckett, by Peter Boxall, covers his life, provides an overview of his work, and attempts to place it in the somewhat problematic context of British literature. 

The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Fiction Edited by Brian W. Schaffer. Blackwell Publishing, 2011. Volume I: Twentieth-century British and Irish Fiction. The article on Beckett is by Patrick A. McCarthy.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. This is one of the most revered reference books in the English language, dating to the 1880s, but now continually revised online. The article on Beckett is by James Knowlson, author of more than 10 books on Beckett.  

The Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature.  Ed. Robert Welsh. NY: Oxford UP, 2000. Contains brief articles on Beckett and all of his major works, as well as articles on Irish literature in general. The larger (less 'concise') Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (1996) is in Geisel Reference, PR 8706 .O88 2006


Print Reference Books

The Geisel Library Reference Collection is on the West Wing of the 2nd (main) floor of Geisel Library. 

Ackerley, Chris and S. E. Gontarsky. The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett: A Reader's Guide to his Works, Life, and Thought. NY: Grove Press, 2004. PR 6003 E282 Z459 2004 (7th floor)

A Dictionary of Irish Literature. Robert Hogan, Ed.-in-Chief. Revised, expanded edition. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1996. 2 vols. Geisel Reference PR 8706 .D5 1996 

Irish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Ed. Bernice Schrank and William M. Demastes. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1997. Geisel Reference PR 8789 .I67 1999

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama: An International Reference Work in 5 Volumes. Ed. Stanley Hochman. 2nd ed. NY: McGraw Hill, 1984. Geisel Reference PN 1625 .M3 1984

Wall, Richard. An Irish Literary Dictionary and Glossary. Gerrards Cross, Bucks: C. Smythe, 2001.  Geisel Reference PE 2406 .W36 2001

Finding Scholarly and Critical Articles About Beckett

To find articles that critique, interpret, theorize, or provide background and context to Beckett's work and life, use the MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB).  Although not all articles indexed in it are available online, each article citation is accompanied by UC eLinks that will lead to any available online full text or to the call number of the printed journal or book the article is in, if the Library owns it.

Another online bibliography of articles, books, and book reviews about British and other English-Language literatures is the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL). Although there is considerable overlap with MLAIB, this is a British-based bibliography and typically indexes more journals and books by small publishers, so it is worth trying as well.

Literature Resource Center. LRC provides a wealth of biographical and critical material on all the major writers of the world, past and present.

"Annual Review." In Journal of Modern Literature , 1970-2001. An annual survey of the scholarship on the Modernists in particular and other writers who gained prominence between 1880 and 1950. This survey ceased after the 2001 volume, but the surveys for the thirty-one years (1970-2001) are very valuable. These volumes are all available in JSTOR.

The following two books list citations to critical studies of Beckett's work. They are rather old but useful for discovering older--but still relevant--criticism.  

Andonian, Cathleen Culotta. Sam Beckett: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989.  PR 6003 .E282 A5 1989 (7th floor).

Tanner, James T. F. and J. Don Vann. Samuel Beckett: A Checklist of Criticism. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1969. Z 8036.37 .T3 (1 East).


Either before or after reading a scholarly book or biography, you might want to read how other scholars or literary journalists have evaluated it; often book reviews provide information omitted from the book itself or argue for a different conclusion to the book's premises. The MLAIB does not include citations to book reviews, even those in scholarly journals. ABELL, on the other hand, does, but only from the journals it indexes, not from newspapers or general-interest magazines. 

The Library provides two indexes to book reviews, Book Review Digest (divided into separate databases for books published since 1982 and for books published before 1982) and Book Review Index. Book Review Digest includes summaries of the reviews; Book Review Index does not, but on the other hand it indexes more sources. 



Useful Websites

Finding Books By and About Beckett

To find what books (printed or ebooks) Geisel Library has by or about Beckett, use our catalog, Roger.  Change the box that says Keyword to Author and type Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989. To find DVDs or videos of his works, first click on the words "Films and Videos" before typing.

For books about him, change the word in the first box from Keyword to General Subject before typing his name. Notice that after a listing of almost 70 general books about him, there are lists of books about specific topics, such as Characters, Criticism and Interpretation, Influence, Knowledge, Political and Social Views, and individual novels and plays by him.  

For books about Beckett's world, browse under these subjects in Roger:

Existentialism in Literature

Theater of the Absurd

English Fiction--Irish Authors--20th Century

English Drama--Irish Authors--20th Century

Modernism (Literature)-- Ireland [or France]

Postmodernism (Literature)--Ireland [or France]

New Novel (Literary Movement)

Ireland--History--20th Century



For More In-Depth Resources

For links to more in-depth resources on British literature in Joyce's time, see the page for the 20th & 21st Century: U.S.& U.K. in the Guide for English Literature Resources.