Beckett's Manywheres

Jason Finch


Linguistic accounts of indexicality, ecocriticism and the place philosophy of Jeff Malpas could all be used in getting closer to a locational or literary geographic understanding of Beckett’s fiction and drama. Malpas considers human being to be fundamentally placed and also to be grounded by its happening in different actual places. This article is an experiment assessing what happens when such a view is applied to Beckett. Beckett’s writing often seems an epitome of anti-place or no-place literature, as exemplified by the stage directions at the beginnings of his post-war plays. Murphy (1938) is by contrast very specifically located in particular districts of London identified by toponyms, with the city as a whole in this novel functioning in the manner of a game board. Readings of Murphy have identified an opposition between a big world of maps and place names and a little world within a room or a person’s head, but the relationship between big and little could be reinterpreted using a poetics of scale in which they are related to one another on a scale. The seemingly placeless Endgame is in fact radically multiple in locational terms, containing many layers, in a way that contrasts with ‘realist’ fiction contemporary with it. The locational complexities of Beckett’s writing help ‘realist’ fiction’s geographic aspects to be understood, rather than standing in any absolute opposition with that sort of writing.


Beckett, Samuel; Murphy; place; location; London, literature of; literary geographies

Full Text:



Ackerley, C. J. (2010) Demented Particulars: The Annotated ‘Murphy’. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Ackerley, C. (Ed.). (2006). The Faber companion to Samuel Beckett: a reader's guide to his works, life, and thought. Faber & Faber.

Beckett, S. (1983) Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Domestic Fragment. Cohn, R. (ed.) London: John Calder.

Beckett, S. (1986) The Complete Dramatic Works. London: Faber.

Beckett, S. [1955] (2006) Molloy. In Beckett (2006): II.1-170.

Beckett, S. [1938] (2006) Murphy. In Beckett (2006): I.1-168.

Beckett, S. (2006) The Grove Centenary Edition. Vols. I-IV. New York: Grove Press.

Belsey, C. (1980) Critical Practice. London: Methuen.

Boxall, P. (2010) ‘Back Roads: Edgeworth. Yeats. Bowen. Beckett’. In Kennedy, S. (ed.) (2010), pp. 150-70.

Brosseau, M. (2008) ‘“The Traps”: Bukowski as Interpreter of Cornered Lives’. Anglia 126, pp. 380-96.

Brosseau, M. (2009) ‘Literature’. In Kitchin, R. and Thrift, N. (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Vol. 6. Oxford: Elsevier. 212-18.

Massie, P., & Casey, E. S. (1997). The Fate of Place, a Philosophical History..

Céline, L.-F. [1944] (2012) Guignol’s Band. Translated by Frechtman, B. and Nile, J. Richmond, Surrey: Alma Classics.

Cooper, D. and Gregory, I. N. (2011) ‘Mapping the English Lake District: A Literary GIS.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, NS 36, pp. 89-108.

Crang, M. (1998) Cultural Geography. London: Routledge.

Cresswell, T. (2006) On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World. New York: Routledge.

Cronin, A. (1996) Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist. London: Harper Collins.

Croot, P. E. C. (ed.) (2004) A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume XII, Chelsea. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer for the Institute of Historical Research.

Doležel, L. (2010) Possible Worlds of Fiction and History: The Postmodern Stage. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Entrikin, J. N. (ed.) (2008) Regions: Critical Essays in Human Geography. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Fletcher, J. (1964) The Novels of Samuel Beckett. London: Chatto & Windus.

Green, K. (ed.) (1995) New Essays in Deixis: Discourse, Narrative, Literature. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Hones, S. (2010) ‘Literary Geography and the Short Story: Setting and Narrative Style’. Cultural Geographies 17, pp. 473-85.

Hones, S. (2011) ‘Literary Geography: Setting and Narrative Space’. Social & Cultural Geography 12, pp. 685-99.

Jeffers, J. M. 2009. Beckett’s Masculinity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kennedy, S. (ed.) (2010) Beckett and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Knowlson, J. (2004) ‘Beckett, Samuel Barclay (1906-1989)’. In Matthew, H. C. G. and Harrison, B. (eds) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vols 1-60, Vol. 4, pp. 719-24. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Knowlson, J. (1996) Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. London: Bloomsbury.

Lassman, E. Z. and M. Byron (2010) ‘Modernist Quinella: Joyce, Beckett, and Dublin’s Leopardstown’. Journal of Beckett Studies 19, pp. 78-94.

Levinson, S. C. (2004) ‘Deixis’. In Horn, L. R. and Ward, G. (eds.) The Handbook of Pragmatics. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 97-121.

Malpas, J. (1999) Place and Experience: A Philosophical Topography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Malpas, J. (2012) Heidegger and the Thinking of Place: Explorations in the Topology of Being. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Massey, D. (1994) Space, Place and Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Miller, J. H. (1995) Topographies. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Moretti, F. (1997) Atlas of the European Novel: 1800-1900. London: Verso.

Moretti, F. (2005) Graphs Maps Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. London: Verso.

Moretti, F. (2013). Distant reading. Verso Books.

Morin, E. (2009) Samuel Beckett and the Problem of Irishness. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

O’Brien, E. (1986) The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett’s Ireland. Dublin: Black Cat Press.

Pattie, D. (2000) Samuel Beckett. London: Routledge.

Pavel, T. G. (1986) Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rabinovitz, R. (1986) ‘Murphy and the Uses of Repetition.’ In Gontarski, S. E. (ed.). On Beckett: Essays and Criticism. New York: Grove Press, pp. 67-90.

Relph, E. (1976). Place and placelessness (Vol. 67). London: Pion.

Saunders, A. (2010) ‘Literary Geography: Reforging the Connections’. Progress in Human Geography, 34 (4), pp. 436-52.

Saunders, P. (2011) ‘Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy and the Ecology of Negation’, Journal of Beckett Studies 20, pp. 54-77.

Shaw, G. B. (1922) Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant. By Bernard Shaw. The First Volume, Containing the Three Unpleasant Plays. London: Constable.

Smith, R. (2013). Childhood and Portora. In Samuel Beckett in Context. Cambridge University Press.

Travis, C. (2008) ‘Beyond the Cartesian Pale: Travels with Samuel Beckett, 1928-1946’. Historical Geography 36, pp. 73-93.

Ullmann, A. (ed.) (2013) Samuel Beckett in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Westphal, B. (2011) Geocriticism: Real and Fictional Spaces. Trans. Tally, R.T. Jr. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

White, J. (2001) London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People. London: Viking.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2015 Literary Geographies