Featuring twelve original essays by leading Beckett scholars and media theorists, this book provides the first sustained examination of the relationship between Beckett and media technologies. The chapters analyse the rich variety of technical objects, semiotic arrangements, communication processes and forms of data processing that Beckett’s work so uniquely engages with, as well as those that – in historically changing configurations – determine the continuing performance, the audience reception, and the scholarly study of this work. Greatly enlarging the scope of earlier discussions, the book draws on a variety of innovative theoretical approaches, such as media archaeology, in order to discuss Beckett’s intermedial oeuvre. As such it engages with Beckett as a media artist and examine the way his engagement with media technologies continues to speak to our cultural situation.
I wrote this book in three halves at least and it took me far too long. Life, work, and COVID intervened. I wouldn't have finished it now without threats and encouragements from close friends and colleagues, particularly Kate Lacey, who told me to stop, and Sarah Kember and Kate O’Riordan, who told me to keep going – it's true we wrote a different book together, but this one is finished because of that one.
This project was completed at Cambridge but it began at Sussex University, and I also worked on it during my time as the Sanomat Fellow at the hugely hospitable Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (HCAS). Thanks are due to many at the international community of scholars at HCAS for feedback and for many inspiring discussions. Huge thanks are also due to my former colleagues in the School of Media, Film and Music (MFM) at Sussex. I am particularly indebted to the MFM Women's Reading Group for their forensic feedback. I'd also like to acknowledge a debt to Ben Roberts, whose thinking has influenced the discussions of 1960s cybernation debates and of contemporary automation anxiety in this book very directly.
Above all I want to thank past and present members of the Sussex Humanities Lab; in particular James Baker, David Berry, Kat Braybrooke, Alice Eldridge, Beatrice Fazi, Wes Goatley, Emma Harrison, Tim Hitchcock, Ben Jackson, Sally Jane Norman, Ben Roberts, Rachel Thomson, Amelia Wakeford, Sharon Webb and David Weir; but there were many more people there who were inspiring, cheering, or noisy in a good way. Modular synth and robot opera have nothing to do with the contents of this book, but the sanity of people working in those areas saved mine.
Some other acknowledgements are due; I interviewed Alice Mary Hilton in New York shortly before her death. Her recollections were not always comfortable, but they opened a door into an earlier moment of automation fever and began this project. I'd also like to acknowledge the Special Collections unit at the University of Sussex, where the Matusow Collection is housed, and to salute the infinitely patient Matthew Frost and others at Manchester University Press. Thanks to readers named and unnamed, but definitely including Jussi Parikka. Finally, thanks to Kate O’Riordan (again), Cecile Chevalier, Hilary Baker and Jane Bassett for solidarity above and beyond writing.