Samuel Beckett in Virtual Reality

  • Annette C Balaam

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Samuel Beckett’s death occurred at the inauguration of the digital age in 1989 activating certain latent tendencies within Beckett’s work and de-activating others, provoking this projects investigation into how Beckett pre-figures our experience in the digital and virtual world. Returning to the source text and Beckett archives reveals the unique ontological locus of any Beckett text and its creative genesis, identified as a locus for being human in the digital and virtual realm. The second part interrogates this principle through contemporary practitioners of Beckett’s work. Both lines of enquiry will draw on Beckett’s, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s, Paul Cézanne’s and Pierre Lévy’s questions regarding the nature of what constitutes subject and world construction, in the process of bringing a world into being.

Chapter one proposes that Beckett’s work pre-figures our experience in the digital and virtual world through embodying an interpretation of Merleau-Ponty’s principles. Chapter two explores how Beckett and digital and virtual reality exists in a space in-between being and nothingness, through Pan Pan’s 2011-2016 high-tech productions of Beckett’s radio plays All That Fall (1956) and Embers (1959). Chapter three investigates the degree of separation in-between the actual and virtual realms within this locus of process, through Company SJ’s 2009-2017 site-specific productions of Beckett’s plays. Chapter four explores the notion that the body has become site and subject of meaning making, through Gare St. Lazare’s productions 1998-2019. Chapter five interrogates the contemporary designation of ‘live’ through UNMAKEABLELOVE (2008), a mixed reality production by Jeffrey Shaw and Sarah Kenderdine. This chapter develops the notion that it is the holistic nature of the body to body and world relationship that is the act of creation. The conclusion suggests that in identifying the lineage of the ontological genealogy of the digital and virtual human, points forward to a Quantum human and world.
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSimon Jones (Supervisor) & Ulrika Maude (Supervisor)


  • Samuel Beckett
  • Performance
  • Digital and Virtual Reality
  • Philosophy
  • Quantum Philosophy
  • Beckett on Film Interviews
  • Pan Pan
  • Company SJ
  • Gare St Lazare
  • Art

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