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5. Humour and Anti-Humanism
About this Lecture
In this module, we explore how Beckett draws out the humour in his depiction of human mediocrity, listlessness, littleness – what we have called ‘anti-humanism’. In particular, we focus on the characters of Estragon and Vladimir, the self-conscious theatricality of the play, and the ubiquity of art.
In this course, Professor Andrew Gibson (Royal Holloway, London) explores Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. We begin by thinking about Beckett’s life, tracing his development as a man and a writer up to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In the second module, we think about life in France during and after the Second World War, focusing in particular on the gap between the nationalist rhetoric of Philippe Pétain and Charles de Gaulle and the reality of a France that had been humiliated by an invasion and occupation by foreign powers. In the third module, we think about Beckett’s own experiences in the Second World War, before moving on in the fourth module to consider his presentation of human mediocrity and insignificance – what we might call ‘anti-humanism’. In the fifth module, we think about how Beckett finds great humour in his ‘anti-humanism’ (especially through the characters of Vladimir and Estragon) before turning in the sixth module to think about ‘waiting’ and ‘Godot’.
Andrew Gibson ended his formal career as Research Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Royal Holloway (College), University of London, where he still teaches part-time. He is currently Visiting Professor at the J.M. Coetzee Centre at the University of Adelaide and a member of the Conseil Scientifique of the Collège Internationale de Philosophie in Paris. He has also been a member of its Comité de Selection. He formerly served as Carole and Gordon Segal Professor of Irish Literature at Northwestern University, Chicago. He has been a Beckett scholar for forty years and is an Associate Member of the International Beckett Foundation at the University of Reading. He is the author of Beckett and Badiou: The Pathos of Intermittency (Oxford University Press, 2006), a short biography, Samuel Beckett, in Reaktion Books’ Critical Lives series (2010), and many essays on Beckett from either a philosophical or a historical perspective or both. He is also a Joyce scholar and a permanent member of the Editorial Board of the James Joyce Quarterly in the USA. His work on Joyce includes three books, Joyce’s Revenge: History, Politics and Aesthetics in Joyce’s `Ulysses’ (Oxford University Press, 2002), The Strong Spirit: History, Politics and Aesthetics in the Writings of James Joyce 1898-1915 (Oxford University Press, 2012) and a short biography, James Joyce, again in the Reaktion series (2006). In line with his Paris appointment, he has a growing reputation as a philosopher based on work like Intermittency: The Concept of Historical Reason in Contemporary French Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) and Misanthropy: The Critique of Humanity (Bloomsbury, 2017). His Modernity and the Political Fix, for Bloomsbury’s Political Theologies series, will be published in 2018. He is currently working on Entering Differences: J.M. Coetzee and the Tone of Democracy. He has published five short novels and a collection of stories, all for children, with Faber & Faber.
Cite this Lecture
Gibson, A. (2018, August 15). Beckett: Waiting for Godot - Humour and Anti-Humanism [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/beckett-waiting-for-godot/humour-and-anti-humanism
Gibson, A. "Beckett: Waiting for Godot – Humour and Anti-Humanism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/beckett-waiting-for-godot/humour-and-anti-humanism