The Painted Word

Samuel Beckett's Dialogue with Art
Lois Oppenheim
Exploring Beckett's relationship with the visual arts and its influence on his creative expression


The Painted Word examines Samuel Beckett's relationship with the visual arts, in an effort to shed new light on the author's work and on his thinking on aesthetics. Lois Oppenheim argues that Beckett was a profoundly visual artist whose work reflects a preoccupation with the visual as a paradigm of creativity. She presents the three principal forms taken by Samuel Beckett's dialogue with art, and more precisely, painting: his critical writing on art, the function of art in his narrative and theatrical writing, and his indirect "collaborations" with painters.

The volume's starting point is the current debate over Beckett's place with regard to modernism and postmodernism. Contextualizing his practice of art with his thinking on art, Oppenheim resituates the debate in conjunction with philosopher Merleau-Ponty's writings on painting and reveals the unifying force of all Beckett's work that resides in a play of visbility. Beckett's thinking on art had everything to do with his aims as a creative writer. Oppenheim shows that the classic Beckettian themes—language (its expressivity or lack thereof), identity (its, at best, tenuous link to a fragmented self), and the subject-object dichotomy—are all modeled on the sensory perspective of the eye. And that it is the verbal figuration of reality as vision that constitutes, whatever the genre, the Beckettian drama.

The volume includes several reproductions of artists' renderings of Beckett's texts and works by Giacometti and Bram Van Velde, two of which were owned by Beckett. Broadly interdisciplinary, The Painted Word will appeal to those interested in aesthetics and the philosophy of art as well in Beckett's work.

Lois Oppenheim is Professor of French and Chair, Department of French, German, and Russian, Montclair State University. She is President of The Samuel Beckett Society, and author of many books including Directing Beckett.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . a boon to those of us addicted, as I happily am, to Beckett's ravenous and often blind eyes. Oppenheim has carefully considered all of Beckett's writing on painting (considerably more than you might guess), and has also documented the fecundity of his collaborative works with artists on editions of his works. Oppenheim is the first to wrestle at such length with the uncanny obsessiveness of Beckett's relationship to seeing and to being seen. . . . [A]nyone interested in Beckett's complicated relationship to seeing and to being seen will benefit immensely from this bold and rigorous look at how Beckett saw."
    —Peggy Phelan, Modern Drama, Winter 2002

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 248pp.
  • 10 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11117-6

Add to Cart
  • $80.00 U.S.