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York academic uncovers Beckett’s Political Imagination in new book

Posted on 8 September 2017

A University of York academic has shed new light on acclaimed writer Samuel Beckett’s interest in the political events of his time.

Beckett, who was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature, was alert to the political work of many groups and individuals, including Nelson Mandela, the British anti-apartheid movement, the Black Panthers and dissenters imprisoned by the Soviet regime.

He also backed campaigns against censorship and supported international human rights movements.


The book, Beckett’s Political Imagination, questions the established picture of Beckett as apolitical.

Dr Emilie Morin, Senior Lecturer in the University of York’s Department of English and Related Literature, said: “It was often thought that Beckett had little interest in politics. The common image of him was of a figure detached from the outside world and its concerns.”

Beckett, who died in 1989, is considered one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th Century. His most famous play Waiting for Godot revolutionised post-war theatre.

“One of the things that drove my research was discovering that he signed many political petitions in his lifetime,” said Dr Morin, who researched and wrote the book over the past 10 years. “What also interested me was that his name on these petitions mostly went unnoticed.”


“After a while I began to develop a sense for the type of petition that he might have signed. I started to look for petitions that would have been supported by people he knew, then I tried to see if his name appeared and noticed some patterns.”

Dr Morin made many of her discoveries in archives, letters and the international press, including British newspapers.

“Beckett was an international figure and he had a fascinating life. Looking at his perspective on politics is a good way of understanding the turmoil of the twentieth century.”

The book, Beckett’s Political Imagination, is published by Cambridge University Press and is priced £31.99.

Further information:

A video featuring Dr Morin talking about her book can be found here:

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