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The Comparison Project: Craig Owens to discuss “The Sayings and Missayings of Samuel Beckett”

January 20, 2015

Craig N. Owens, Associate Professor of English at Drake University, will deliver a lecture titled, “The Sayings and Missayings of Samuel Beckett” as part of the Comparison Project’s Spring 2015 program. The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, in Sussman Theater, 2875 University Ave., and is free and open to the public.

Owens’ lecture continues the Comparison Project’s two-year thematic exploration of the concept of ineffability—or that which cannot be expressed through words—by delving into the work of a characteristically verbose playwright. Samuel Beckett is a 20th century novelist, playwright and poet who won the Nobel Peace Prize for literature in 1969.

“For Beckett's characters, to be is to speak or write, and to do so ceaselessly,” said Owens. “What they talk about is often frivolous, ambiguous, repetitive, and without practical effect: belabored memories, streams of consciousness, badly timed jokes, plotless narrative, and idle musings never deliver the impact, denouement, or understanding for which they grope.”

In his final trilogy of novels, “Nowhow On,” Beckett’s writing becomes more self-reflective, as Beckett and his characters become increasingly aware that their words don’t perfectly convey their intended meaning. Owens’ talk will delve into these final novels to discuss how these literary works reflect on the concept of ineffability, a theme that The Comparison Project has explored primarily through the lens of spirituality and religion.

Owens teaches modern drama, playwriting, modern Irish and British literature, and discourse and language theory at Drake University. He has directed and performed in many of Beckett's plays including CatastrophePlayKrapp's Last Tape and That Time. His work on Beckett's drama has appeared in Shaw and The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association.

The Comparison Project is sponsored by the Drake University Humanities Center, Humanities Iowa, the Medbury Fund, The Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship at Drake University, Des Moines Area Religious Council, and Cultivating Compassion: The Richard Deming Foundation.

The Comparison Project Spring 2015 lecture schedule: 

Thursday February 26, 7 p.m., Sussman Theater
"Kabbalah, Language, and Transcendental Mysteries"

Thursday April 16, 7 p.m., Sussman Theater
"Love Is to Renounce Naming the Beloved: Muslim Mystic al-Rabi’a and Her Teaching of the Ineffable"  

Thursday April 30, 7 p.m., Sussman Theater
"Philosophizing Ineffability: Comparative Reflections on Our 2013-2015 Theme and Events "

All lectures are held at Sussman Theater in Olmsted, 2875 University Ave., and are free and open to the public.

Visit www.comparisonproject.wordpress.drake.edu or email comparisonproject@drake.edu for more information.