1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Absurdist Literature

Edited By Michael Y. Bennett Copyright 2024
    574 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Routledge Companion to Absurdist Literature is the first authoritative and definitive edited collection on absurdist literature. As a field-defining volume, the editor and the contributors are world leaders in this ever-exciting genre that includes some of the most important and influential writers of the 20th century: including Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Albert Camus. Ever puzzling and always refusing to be pinned down, this book does not attempt to define absurdist literature, but attempts to examine its major and minor players. As such, the field is indirectly defined by examining its constituent writers. Not only investigating the so-called “Theatre of the Absurd,” this volume wades quite deeply into absurdist fiction and absurdist poetry, expanding much of our previous sense of what constitutes absurdist literature. Furthermore, long overdue, approximately one-third of the book is devoted to marginalized writers: black, Latin/x, female, LGBTQ+, and non-Western voices.

    List of contributors


    Introduction: Absurdist Literature What is it? and is that What We are Calling it Now? (Michael Y. Bennett)





    Section 1. What led to absurdist literature?

    1)      Historical Precursors, I: Ancient Tragicomedy and Pastoral plays (Claire Sommers)

    2)      Historical Precursors, II: Nonsense! From Carroll and Lear through Wilde and Sitwell to the Postmodern (Holly Laird)

    3)      Historical Precursors, III: Gogol and Dostoevsky (Irina Erman)

    4)      Bartleby and Beckett (Graley Harren)

    5)      KAFKA AS LITERATURE OF THE ABSURD (Meindert Peters)

    6)      OBERIU: the Absurd as a Critique of Poetic Reason (Evgeny Povlov)

    7)      Dada and Surrealism (Elza Adamowicz)

    8)      T. S. Eliot and The Group Theatre (Geoffrey Lokke)


    Section 2. Philosophical Origins–Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Camus

    9)      Nietzsche’s Absurd Tragedy (Elliott Turley)

    10)   Kierkegaard and the Absurd (Leonardo Lisi)

    11)   Sartre and the Absurd (Christopher Minor)

    12)   Camus and Absurdity (Ronald Aronson)





    Section 3. Samuel Beckett

    13)   “Show not Tell: The ‘Absurdist’ Theatre of Samuel Beckett” (Linda Ben-Zvi)

    14)   Beckett’s Fiction (Paul Sheehan)

    15)   Credo quia absurdum est: the Subversion of the Rational in Samuel Beckett’s Early Poetics. (Chris Ackerley)

    16)   Samuel Beckett’s Television Plays (Jonathan Bignell)

    17)   Samuel Beckett’s radio plays (Pedro Querido)


    Section 4. 1950s: The First Wave

    18)   Arthur Adamov (Richard Jones)

    19)   Jean Genet (Stefano Boselli)

    20)   Eugène Ionesco (Julia Elsky)

    21)   Harold Pinter (Ann C. Hall)


    Section 5. 1960s: The Emergence of a So-Called “Movement”

    Absurdist Literature in English

    22)   Edward Albee, Absurdist (Matthew Roudané)

    23)   Amiri Baraka (Susan Stone-Lawrence)

    24)   Jack Gelber (John Patrick Bray)

    25)   Arthur Kopit (David Coley)

    26)   “He Brought her Heart Back in a Box: Adrienne Kennedy’s Absurdist Dreamwrighting” (David A. Crespy)

    27)   Tom Stoppard and the Absurd (James N. Loehlin)

    28)   Guerilla Theatre as Absurd Performance (Chris McCoy)

    29)   Understanding the Absurd Under the Shadow of Late Capitalism: Philip K. Dick, Thomas Pynchon, and Kurt Vonnegut (Eyal Tamir)


    30)   Arrabal's Panic Allowances for the Absurd (Felicia Hardison Londré)

    31)   Friedrich Dürrenmatt (René Koglbauer)

    32)   St. Sisyphus: Günter Grass’s Absurdist Social Democracy (Alex Cole)

    33)   . (Re)Considering Sławomir Mrożek (Conrad Alexandrowicz)





    Section 6. Feminist, LGBTQ+, and Multiethnic Absurdist Literature

    34)   Amusing and Shocking: Caryl Churchill’s Absurdist Drama (Peta Tait)

    35)   Split Britches and the Camp Absurd (Benjamin Gillespie)

    36)   “Beckett Just Seems so Black to Me”: Suzan-Lori Parks as Absurdist Playwright (Kevin J Wetmore, Jr)

    37)   (Multi)Ethnic Absurdist Theatre (Kimberly Jew)


    Section 7. World Absurdist Literature

    38)   Luminaries of The Aesthetics of the Absurd in Latin America (Ramona Hernández and Pedro José Ortega)

    39)   “Response and Resistance: A Bird’s-eye View of the Absurd in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean" (Nancy Bird-Soto)

    40)   Middle Eastern Absurdist Literature (Marvin A. Carlson)

    41)   Indian Theatres of the Absurd: Cultural Politics of Transformation (Arka Chattopadhyay)

    42)   Postcolonial Absurdist Literature (Mike Marais)

    43)   Decolonisation and the Theatre of the Absurd (Nic Barilar and Hannah Simpson)

    44)   Absurdist Cinema, Television, and Adaptations around the World (Shai Tubali)




    Michael Y. Bennett is an Associate Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In addition to being a past Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, where he was a Visiting Fellow. In addition to being on the Advisory Boards of Comparative Drama and the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, he is the President of The Edward Albee Society, the Editor of the book series, Routledge Studies on Edward Albee and American Theatre, and is the Editor of the journal, Theatre and Performance Notes and Counternotes. A theatre theorist and critic known for his work on absurd drama, philosophy of theatre, Edward Albee, and Oscar Wilde, he is the author or editor of fifteen books