The University of Western Sydney and the Sydney Festival 2003 will host one of the largest international humanities conferences ever seen in Australia, as noted authors, philosophers and playwrights come together to celebrate the life and achievements of the Nobel prize winning novelist and playwright, Samuel Beckett.
The four-day symposium, after Beckett d'après Beckett, has attracted more than 100 international and 30 local speakers and will be held at the Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf Theatre from 6-9 January, 2003.
Samuel Beckett is widely considered to be one of the most influential playwrights and novelists of the twentieth century, and his influence extends across the arts, philosophy and the humanities. Beckett wrote for diverse media, including plays and novels, poems, radio and television plays and a short film.
Noted Beckett scholar and symposium convenor, Dr Anthony Uhlmann from the University of Western Sydney, says the delegates' countries of origin demonstrate the wide international appeal of Beckett's works.
"We have delegates coming from Ireland, France, North America, the UK and Australia, but also more surprisingly from Iran, Jordan, Russia, India, Israel, Austria, South Africa, Romania, Argentina, Germany, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore," Dr Uhlmann says.
"Our keynote speakers include some of the world's leading authorities on Beckett including H. Porter Abbott, Mary Bryden, Bruno Clement, Steven Connor, Colin Duckworth, Gery Dukes, Stan Gontarski, Peggy Phelan and Mariko Tanaka."
Dr Uhlmann says the timing of the event is also significant.
"The symposium will mark the 50th anniversary of the first performance of Beckett's Waiting for Godot in Paris on Janurary 5, 1953. Another of our major speakers, Ruby Cohn, who has written several books on Beckett, was in the audience for that performance."
As part of the Sydney Festival, the Beckett Symposium will also include performances of Waiting for Godot and Endgame from Company B Belvoir and the Sydney Theatre Company, and the screening at the State Theatre Complex of Beckett on Film, featuring 19 of his plays.
Dr Uhlmann says there will also be a public lecture at the Sydney Town Hall on January 8, 2003.
"It's an opportunity for those interested in Beckett to learn more about his influence from some of the world's leading scholars," Dr Uhlmann says.
"Dual Booker Prize-winning novelist J.M. Coetzee will examine Beckett's influence and the future for writing in his wake; leading performance theorist Professor Herbert Blau will consider Beckett's legacy in the theatre; while distinguished French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray will speak via satellite about 'waiting' and 'relations between people' in the works of both Beckett and J. M. Coetzee."
Dr Uhlmann says the University of Western Sydney is thrilled to be involved in the Beckett Symposium.
"The Beckett project has been two years in the planning and is a unique cultural event rarely seen before in Australia, representing an important collaboration between humanities academics and some of Sydney's leading artistic organizations."
Tickets for the public lecture are available through Ticketek on 02 9266 4826. Tickets for the Symposium (including day rates) can be purchased through the conference website, www.uws.edu.au/uws/conferences/beckett/
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