Beckett, Disability and Parkinson’s Disease: The Case of Endgame

16 Mar 2021 05.00 PM - 06.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public

This talk addresses the politics and aesthetics of ageing and disability in the work of playwright Samuel Beckett. It focuses on Beckett’s 1957 play Endgame, taking as test case a recent production of Endgame by two well-known American character actors who have Parkinson’s disease. The paper will explores the way in which this production, and Beckett’s theatre in general, has the potential to subvert the operation of what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson has called the ableist ‘stare’. It thinks about the way in which what Sianne Ngai calls ‘ugly feelings’ generated by ageing and disability on the part of both disabled and able subjects might be turned to aesthetic effect and, in so doing, be shared and critiqued. Beckett’s theatre productively dismantles the idea of passing (as either able-bodied or disabled) as it has been applied in disability studies, allowing it to trouble the distinctions upon which the concept of disability rests.


Dr Liz Barry is Reader in English at the University of Warwick, UK, teaching in the English department and at Warwick Medical School. She is the author of Beckett and Authority (Palgrave 2006), has edited issues of International Journal of Cultural Studies, Journal of Beckett Studies, and Journal of Medical Humanities, and is the editor of the 2020 Essays and Studies volume Literature and Ageing (Boydell and Brewer). She is a partner on an interdisciplinary age studies project run by the University of Bergen, Norway, and has held two UK government grants to work on modernism in relation to medicine and the mind.