Letters Brought to Life

The correspondence of Samuel Beckett has been a lesson for Emory graduate students

The fourth and final volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett was published this fall, marking a milestone for a sweeping research endeavor that has been humming quietly along at Emory for more than 25 years.

Beckett authorized the publication of his voluminous correspondence in 1985, and managing editor Lois More Overbeck was asked to join the project that same year. The Letters of Samuel Beckett project became affiliated with the Laney Graduate School of Emory in 1990, the year after Beckett died.

At Emory, several generations of graduate students—more than 100 altogether—have been involved in the research and editing process, providing a foundation for their future teaching and scholarship and making the project, says Overbeck, a new model for humanities research.

According to a review of Volume I in The New York Times, “Reading it is far from homework: the Beckett we meet in these piquant letters, most written when he was in his late 20s and early 30s, is rude, mordantly witty and scatological, yet often (and this is perhaps the biggest surprise) affectionate and wholehearted.” There will be an exhibit celebrating the Beckett project in Emory’s Rose Library, opening November 1 and running through January 12, 2017.

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