Archived News and Events


Beckett & Politics Conference 2016

3 - 4 November 2016
Minghella Building, University of Reading

Following the success of the 2015 Beckett & Europe Conference, we are pleased to announce the call for papers for a 2-day conference on Beckett and Politics, to be held during this year's Beckett Week at the University of Reading.

The conference is open to academics from all career stages and papers will be selected anonymously. Please see the conference website for further information.

Please send *anonymised abstracts* of no more than 300 words and a *separate biography* of no more than 150 words (.pdf or .docx), and any informal inquiries, to by 4 July 2016.



Professor Mary Bryden (1952 - 2015)

It was with profound sadness that colleagues and students past and present learned of Professor Mary Bryden's death at St. Wilfrid's Hospice in Eastbourne on 5 November 2015 after a three year long battle against cancer. Mary was a treasured colleague, mentor and friend to many in both the University and beyond and will be sorely missed. To read more about her life and work, see Professor James Knowlson's tribute to Mary.


Beckett International Foundation Annual Research Seminar

30 October 2015
Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading

The 2015 Beckett International Foundation Annual Research Seminar brought the University's Beckett Week to a close with thought-provoking papers from Stefano Rosignoli (Trinity College Dublin), Dr Jonathan Heron (University of Warwick), Dr Trish McTighe (Queen's University Belfast) and Dr Mark Nixon (University of Reading).

Beckett and Europe Conference

28 - 29 October 2015
MERL, University of Reading

The first Beckett at Reading Postgraduate and Early Careers (BARPE) conference took place on the 28th and 29th of October, 2015. Held at the Museum of English Rural Life and with a particular focus on providing a platform for PhD and Early Career researchers, the conference welcomed papers on the theme of 'Samuel Beckett and Europe', with the aim of engaging postgraduates and ECRs in research exchange with an interdisciplinary and cross-media focus. The range of presentations spanned Beckett's life and canon through multiple approaches that saw theory and archival work blending with historical, political and philosophical engagements, showcasing the diversity of current Beckett research. A copy of the conference program can be found on the BARPE website.

The conference keynote was given by Dr David Tucker, research fellow at University of Chester and researcher in the Staging Beckett project. David's paper focused on his work on Samuel Beckett's only work for cinema, Film, and the possibility of Beckett's involvement in a remake. Following the keynote a wine reception was held in the newly refurbished MERL foyer, generously funded by Beckett at Reading (BAR). The conference was also partially funded by the Graduate School Events Fund.

As a part of the program, the conference also included three workshops. Dr Mark Nixon provided a workshop on archival studies using items from the Beckett Collection held at MERL. Dr Trish McTighe hosted a session on theatre and performance archive work, making use of the recently acquired Billie Whitelaw collection. Professor Steven Matthews also held a 'Teaching Beckett' workshop in which the discussion focused on the methods and issues involved in teaching and constructing university teaching based on Beckett's work.

'Beckett and Europe' drew to a close with a roundtable discussion chaired by Mark Nixon. David Tucker and Trish McTighe were joined by Professor James Knowlson and Professor John Pilling to reflect on the theme of the conference and to discuss the diversity of papers that had been heard during the two days.

The BARPE team are also pleased to announce that £525 was raised through the sale of Dr Julie Campbell's academic books, kindly donated by Samantha Campbell. All proceeds will be divided between four charities: Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, Maggie's Cancer Centres, the Howard League for Penal Reform and St Mungo's Broadway.

This conference was a great success with excellent presentations and lively academic debates in equal measure. The BARPE team would like to thank all who were involved and particularly those who provided advice and support in the planning of the conference.

BARPE Team: Michela Bariselli, Niamh Bowe, Helen Bailey, William Davies and Sam Whybrow.



Samuel Beckett Summer School, TCD

The 2015 Samuel Beckett Summer School at Trinity College Dublin took place from 9 - 14 August. Internationally renowned Beckett scholars gave lectures and seminars on a variety of subjects, including:


  • "Beckett & Physics" - C. J. Ackerley
  • "Beckett, Sensation & Agency" - Amanda Dennis
  • "fMRI in Prose: Beckett and Neuroscience" - Lois Oppenheim
  • "'as innocent as the sperm unspent': Sex and Power in Beckett's Works" - Paul Stewart
  • "'The unthought and the harrowing': Samuel Beckett's Necessary Art" - Derval Tubridy
  • "'Aspermatic Days and Nights': Samuel Beckett and an Anti-Genealogy of Contemporary Irish Poetry" - David Wheatley
  • "The Loutishness of Learning: a roundtable on teaching Beckett" - chaired by Jonathan Heron


  • Beckett and the Visual Arts. Led by Derval Tubridy and comprising four elements: 'Trace, Structure, Movement', 'Language, Subjectivity and the Performing / Speaking Body', 'Imaging the Text' and 'Re-Sounding Beckett'.
  • Beckett and Poetry. Led by David Wheatley.
  • Beckett's Manuscripts. Led by Mark Nixon and Dirk Van Hulle.
  • Performance Workshop. Led by Jonathan Heron and Nicholas Johnson.
  • Reading Group. Led by Sam Slote.

The internationally renowned Gare St. Lazare Ireland also gave an exclusive performance of the Beckett Trilogy to participants.


BBC Artsnight Programme

On Friday 31st July an Artsnight episode dedicated to Samuel Beckett was aired on BBC2. Presented by renowned actor and director, Richard Wilson, the programme included interviews with Jim Knowlson, as well as Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Dwan, Juliet Stephenson, and acclaimed director, Robert Wilson. The interview with Jim Knowlson took place in the University's Special Collections, whilst other interviews take place at the Happy Days Enniskillen Beckett Festival.

Matt McFrederick, a final-year PhD student, associated to the Staging Beckett Project, writes:

"During our day of filming, Richard was a real gentleman and great company throughout, happily speaking about everything from his interest in Beckett and Sarah Kane to his love of Manchester United. Richard met the University's Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell and followed up on his genuine passion in Beckett's work by viewing many of the Collections theatre materials. He has a long held interest in Beckett's drama beyond his notable TV career, and has performed in Waiting for Godot twice: at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh (in 1968) and at the Manchester Royal Exchange (in 1999). He is presently Associate Director at Sheffield Theatres, where he performed in Krapp's Last Tape in the Studio Theatre in June 2014.

"In a lively interview amongst the archival stacks, Richard asked Jim about those first productions ofGodot in Paris and London and Beckett's impact on the theatre more broadly. On one occasion they even reversed the roles as Jim asked Richard about his approach to performing the roles of Vladimir and Krapp. In good spirits, Jim and Richard concluded the interview with their very own double act moment as they read a small section of Vladimir and Estragon's dialogue".

Happy Days Enniskillen

The 4th Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival took place between 22 July and 2 August 2015. Attended by internationally renowned scholars and theatre practitioners, as well as members of the public, the Festival was a huge success.

Following its positive reception at the April Staging Beckett Conference, Matthew McFrederick, Anna McMullan and Mark Nixon curated an exhibition on "Waiting For Godot at 60" at the Festival. The exhibition contains materials relating to a wide range of productions of Waiting for Godot staged across the UK, Ireland and international platforms. These include productions such as premieres of Godot in Paris (Théâtre de Babylone, 1953), Berlin (Schlosspark, 1953), London (Arts, 1955) and Dublin (Pike, 1955), as well as later productions at the Nottingham Playhouse with Peter O'Toole (in 1971), the Gate Theatre in Dublin (from 1988-2008) directed by Walter Asmus, and more recent performances such as the Theatre Royal Haymarket (in 2009). In what we believe may be an Irish premiere, Samuel Beckett's Production Notebook 2 and Warten auf Godot text for his 1975 Schiller Theater Berlin performance are also on display. Furthermore, the exhibition links itself to Beckett's connections with Enniskillen, as it contains programmes and reviews for performances of Waiting for Godot at Portora Royal School - the school Beckett attended from 1920-1923.

Also at the Festival, Jim Knowlson and Neil Morton (Headmaster at Portora) spoke about Beckett's time at school, the life he led there and the influence it had on him in later years.

Among other events were memorial lectures on Billie Whitelaw (1932 - 2014) by Jim Knowlson and Lisa Dwan, and a number of performances, including an Out of Joint / Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival Co-Production of All That Fall.


Staging Beckett Conference 2015

The 3rd and final Staging Beckett Conference took place on 9 - 11 April 2015 at the University of Reading. The conference was well attended and there was a good atmosphere, with speakers presenting on 'Performance and the Archive', 'The Performing Body', 'Sonic Legacies and Radiophonic Echoes', 'Word and Gesture', 'Irish Theatre and Performance Cultures', 'Staging Beckett in International Thatre Cultures', and 'Adaptation, Performance and Intermediality', and keynote lectures by Phillip Zarrilli, Derval Tubridy, and Stan Gontarski.

On the final day, we were joined by renowned actor, Ronald Pickup, who described his practical and interpretive approach to Beckett's works, as well as reflecting on his time working with the author.

In addition to the conference panels and keynotes, there were two interactive events: a performance workshop on The Unnamable and Not I, and a parallel session exploring how archival materials help to generate performance histories.

The conference also marked the launch of the 'Waiting For Godot: 60 Years On' exhibition, the Staging Beckett database, and the limited edition collection of essays, Jim Knowlson's Festschrift, published by the Beckett International Foundation.


Tribute to Billie Whitelaw
(6 June 1932 - 21 December 2014)

22 December 2014

Anna McMullan writes: "The Staging Beckett team, the Beckett International Foundation, and colleagues at the University of Reading, are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Billie Whitelaw, a close friend of Samuel Beckett's and a foremost interpreter of his drama.

"Billie appeared in iconic stage, film and television roles, including playing Desdemona opposite Laurence Olivier in Shakepeare's Othello at the National Theatre in 1965, and appearing in such films as The Omen and The Krays. However she will be particularly remembered for her long term collaboration with Samuel Beckett.

"Billie first appeared in Beckett's Play in 1964, and went on to perform in the premieres of Not I, Footfalls (specially written for her by Beckett) and Rockaby, and the television plays Ghost Trio and …but the clouds…. Beckett described her performance in the BBC television version of Not I (1975), as 'miraculous'.

"Billie had a close association with the University of Reading's Beckett International Foundation since she became the first Annenberg Fellow in 1992 . During her week-long residency she gave a series of workshops and performances for staff, students and members of the public. Over the years she has been an important supporter of the Beckett Collection and was a Patron of the Beckett International Foundation. In 2001 she received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Reading.

"The University of Reading and the Beckett International Foundation recently purchased the unique archive of Billie Whitelaw's work with Beckett. The archive, funded by generous contributions from the Beckett International Foundation, the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries, will be made available to the public as soon as possible. It will be a fitting tribute to a magnificent actress and dedicated friend, muse and favourite actress of Samuel Beckett".

Acquisition of Billie Whitelaw Collection

19 December 2014
The University of Reading and the Beckett International Foundation are delighted to announce the purchase of a unique archive of actor Billie Whitelaw's work with playwright Samuel Beckett.

The £35,000 acquisition, funded by generous contributions from the Beckett International Foundation, the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries, was made at an auction at Sotheby's, London, last week.

Billie Whitelaw was Irish writer and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett's favourite actor. He directed her in several theatrical productions and revivals of his plays. The collection includes correspondence, annotated playscripts, rehearsal notes for some of Beckett's most famous works, including Play, Not I, Happy Days, Rockaby, Eh Joe, Embersand Footfalls, as well costumes worn by Billie during performances of Footfalls and Rockaby.

The items will join the rest of the University's Beckett Collection, which is the world's largest collection of manuscript materials relating to Beckett. This will offer anyone with an interest in Beckett's plays or the theatre - including scholars, students and theatre practitioners - a unique insight into how one of the world's greatest writers worked with his actors.

Dr Mark Nixon, Director of the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading, said: 'The University of Reading is arguably the centre of Beckett studies worldwide. This is a wonderful addition to our collection. The material complements our existing material relating to the plays they worked on together, such as Beckett's own directorial notes as well as most of the relevant draft manuscripts and typescripts. The mind of one the most renowned playwrights, as well his crucial working relationship with actors, can now all be studied under one roof."

Billie Whitelaw has had close links with the University of Reading since 1992 when she became the first Annenberg Fellow. During her week-long residency, she gave a series of workshops and performances for staff, students and members of the public. Over the years she has been an important supporter of the Beckett Collection and is still a Patron of the Beckett International Foundation. In 2001 she received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Reading.

Billie famously performed Not I in 14 minutes at the Royal Court in 1973. The University hosted two rare performances of this iconic Samuel Beckett work which were performed by Lisa Dwan in 2013.

Professor James Knowlson, University of Reading Emeritus Professor, friend of Beckett and his sole authorised biographer, said: "Billie Whitelaw has so many connections with the University of Reading that it is the natural place for her Beckett material to be held. We are very thrilled to have been able to purchase it."

The Billie Whitelaw archive will feature in public events (such as exhibitions) and in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes.

Guy Baxter, University Archivist, said: "This is an important investment. Theatre is such a collaborative art form so we need to document the work of the actors, designers and others who help to bring works from the script to the stage. It is wonderful to be able to gain a greater understanding of how Beckett worked with his actors, and we hope that this archive will enable researchers to do that. We would like to thank our funders for their generosity in helping us to purchase it."

Whitelaw Beckett Collection


Samuel Beckett Week at the University of Reading

1 - 4 October 2014

An exhibition and series of public events was held to celebrate the University's internationally renowned collection of manuscripts from the Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).

  • Wednesday 1 - Saturday 4 October
    Public Exhibition: "Samuel Beckett in London - the Murphy Notebooks". Museum of English Rural Life (free).
    Alongside a wide range of other material, the University's recently acquired notebooks for Beckett's novel Murphy were on display at this exhibition, which focussed on Beckett's time in London between 1934 and 1935.

  • Thursday 2 October
    Beckett Archive Workshop.
    2-4pm, Museum of English Rural Life (free). Booking in advance.
    Open to all, this free two-hour workshop introduced participants to the University's Beckett archive. It was open to any interested members of the public and was well-received.

  • Friday 3 October
    Public Lecture and Drinks Reception: Professor Dan Gunn - "Samuel Beckett Through his Letters". 5.30pm, Minghella Building, Whiteknights Campus (free). Booking in advance.
    Dan Gunn, Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the American University of Paris, gave an interesting talk about the processes involved in compiling the Letters of Samuel Beckettseries.

  • Saturday 4 October
    The Beckett International Foundation Annual Research Seminar 2014. 10am, Museum of English Rural Life (£20 waged, £15 unwaged). Booking in advance.
    This day-long advanced seminar explored the latest research in Beckett Studies, with papers from Emeritus Professor John Pilling and Professor Andrew Nash (University of Reading) on the Murphymanuscript, Dr Judith Wilkinson (independent scholar) on Beckett and visual art, Dr Anthony Paraskeva (University of Roehampton) on Beckett and the cinema, and Dr Helen Bailey (University of Reading) on unheard music and suppressed spirituality in Beckett's Watt.



Posthumous publication of 'Echo's Bones'

Dr Mark Nixon, one of the world's leading Beckett scholars, has brought to life 'Echo's Bones' 80 years after it was written. The text was commissioned as the final piece for Beckett's early collection of interrelated stories More Pricks Than Kicks. However the story was rejected as 'a nightmare' by Beckett's editor and was held back from inclusion in the published volume.

Charles Prentice at Chatto & Windus, Beckett's publishers at the time, rejected the tale for being far too difficult and strange. In a letter to Beckett, Prentice writes: 'It is a nightmare ... It gives me the jim-jams ... Echo's Bones would, I am sure, lose the book a great many readers. People will shudder and be puzzled and confused; and they won't be keen on analysing the shudder.'

Dr Nixon, Director of the Beckett International Foundation and a reader in modern literature at the University of Reading, edited the new volume and wrote its introduction. He said: 'It has been a great privilege to bring Echo's Bones into the public domain. This forgotten text is a vital link in the evolution of Beckett's early work.

Of Dr Nixon's work -

John Sutherland in the Spectator said: "Mark Nixon's edition is a glorious vindication of scholarship."

Edward Beckett, nephew of Samuel Beckett, commented to the Observer: "This is a very important text. It's good that it is available at long last."

Seamus Deane in the Literary Review said: "It is good to have this work, not of genius, but by a genius, finally."


Call For Papers:
Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories

4 - 5 April 2014

Minghella Building, University of Reading

We are excited to announce the 'Staging Beckett' project's first conference in April 2014.

'Staging Beckett' is a three year research collaboration between the universities of Chester, Reading, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project started in September 2012, and is exploring the impact of productions of Beckett's plays on British and Irish theatre practice and cultures while also looking at how Beckett has been staged internationally. It is compiling a database of professional productions of Beckett's plays in the UK and Ireland.

Call for papers:

The conference will focus on the history, documentation and analysis of Beckett's theatre in performance: while Beckett's directing practice has been much discussed, and critical attention has been paid to selected premiere productions (the French, British, Irish or US premieres of Godot, for example), or 'deviant' productions such as the 1984 American Repertory Theatre production of Endgame, there is a great deal of work to be done in researching the diversity of productions of Beckett's theatre in the UK, Ireland and internationally. Questions we are asking include:

  • How did approaches to staging Beckett's theatre change from the 1950s to the twenty-first century?
  • Have there been distinct approaches to staging Beckett at particular moments and in particular theatre cultures?
  • How have productions of Beckett's plays commented on or reflected wider political / economic contexts?
  • What kinds of dialogues can we trace between productions of Beckett's plays and local, national or international theatre histories?
  • Can we trace cross-influences in approaches to staging Beckett across productions?
  • What can particular case studies of individual or comparative productions contribute to constructing performance histories of Beckett's theatre?
  • How can future performance practice of Beckett's theatre be informed or inspired by previous productions?
  • We are also interested in methodological issues around Beckett, performance and the archive, and around Beckett, performance and the digital.

We are keen to hear from academics and practitioners (whether UK, Irish or international) interested in the legacies of particular performances, the documentation and analysis of Beckett in performance, and in the dialogues between productions of Beckett's theatre and wider theatre practices and cultural / political contexts. Issues to consider might be, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How particular directors / performers have approached staging Beckett.
  • How particular economic, funding, and / or political contexts have influenced productions of Beckett's plays
  • Beckett and stage design / scenography
  • Technical innovation in productions of Beckett
  • 'Deviant' or 'alternative' productions (ie that have flouted Beckett's stage directions)
  • Productions that were planned and didn't happen (refused permission, for example)
  • Beckett and particular local, national or international theatre cultures
  • The 'festivalisation' of Beckett
  • International touring productions to the UK and Ireland
  • UK and Irish productions that have toured (such as Dublin Gate Beckett Festival)
  • Digital archives of Beckett in performance / Beckett performance on the web

Please send proposals of c. 150 words to Anna McMullan ( by Friday 13th December 2013.

Informal enquiries can be sent to Anna at the above email address, or to Graham Saunders ( or Trish McTighe (

Future 'Staging Beckett' conferences include:

  • Staging Beckett in the Regions (University of Chester, September 2014)
  • Beckett and Theatre and Performance Cultures (University of Reading, April 2015)

The 'Staging Beckett' team:

  • Matthew McFrederick (Reading)
  • Anna McMullan (Reading)
  • Trish McTighe (Reading)
  • David Pattie (Chester)
  • Graham Saunders (Reading)
  • David Tucker (Chester).


Staging Beckett Event:
Ian Rickson in conversation with Mark Taylor-Batty

3 October 2013
Minghella Building, UoR (Whiteknights campus)

Doors open from 6.30pm.

Followed by wine reception.

Tickets are free but advance registration is essential. To book tickets visit: and follow the event link Enquiries:

The University of Reading, the Staging Beckett project, and the Beckett International Foundation are delighted to present a conversation with acclaimed theatre director Ian Rickson, who will be talking about the challenges of directing the work of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, with Mark Taylor-Batty who has written extensively on both playwrights. Ian Rickson directed Pinter in Krapp's Last Tape at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2006.

The AHRC-funded Staging Beckett project, a collaboration with the University of Chester and the Victoria and Albert Museum, is developing a database of productions of Beckett's plays in the UK and Ireland which will be available in 2014. This is a pilot for a wider performing arts database.

An exhibition will be open for the evening of the event with materials from diverse productions of Krapp's Last Tape in the UK and Ireland, including Rickson's production with Harold Pinter, and the premiere of the play at the Royal Court Theatre in 1958, starring Patrick Magee, directed by Donald McWhinnie and designed by Jocelyn Herbert. The exhibition will feature items in the University of Reading's collection related to Krapp's Last Tape, and items from the Jocelyn Herbert Archive, housed at Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts, London.

Ian Rickson was Artistic Director at the Royal Court from 1998 to 2006, during which time he directed Krapp's Last Tape, The Winterling, Alice Trilogy, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, Fallout, The Night Heron, Boy Gets Girl, Mouth to Mouth (also in the West End), Dublin Carol, The Weir (also in the West End and on Broadway), The Lights, Pale Horse and Mojo (also at the Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago), Ashes & Sand, Some Voices and Killers. His last production for the Royal Court, The Seagull, transferred to Broadway. Other theatre includes Old Times (West End), The River (Royal Court), Hamlet (Young Vic), Jerusalem (Royal Court, West End and Broadway), Betrayal (Comedy Theatre), The Children's Hour (Comedy Theatre), The Hothouse and The Day I Stood Still (NT), Parlour Song (Almeida), Hedda Gabler (Roundabout Theatre, New York), The House of Yes (Gate) and Me & My Friend (Chichester Festival Theatre). Film includes: Fallout, Krapp's Last Tape and The Clear Road Ahead.

Mark Taylor-Batty is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the Workshop Theatre, School of English, University of Leeds. He is co-author with Juliette Taylor-Batty, of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godotand has produced a monograph on Beckett's first director, Roger Blin: Collaborations and Metholodogies (Peter Lang, 2007). He has written extensively on Harold Pinter, including About Pinter (Faber and Faber, 2005) and the Forthcoming Theatre of Harold Pinter (Methuen Drama, 2014). He is an executive member of the International Harold Pinter Society, and a co-editor, with Enoch Brater, of the new 'Methuen Drama Engage' series of monographs on modern drama.


University of Reading acquires the original manuscript for Murphy

10 July 2013

The University of Reading is delighted to announce that it has acquired the working manuscript of Samuel Beckett's first major work, Murphy, at the cost of £962,500, at an auction at Sotheby's in London.

The hand-written manuscript, which has been in private hands for the last half century, will now become accessible to Beckett scholars around the world as part of the University's Beckett Collection, the world's largest Beckett archive.

At nearly 800 pages long, Murphy is among the greatest literary manuscripts of the 20th century and, according to Sotheby's, is the "most important manuscript of a complete novel by a modern British or Irish writer to appear at auction for many decades". Murphy was Beckett's first published novel and the first major expression of the central themes that would occupy Beckett for the next half century.

Professor James Knowlson, University of Reading Emeritus Professor, friend of Beckett and his sole authorised biographer, said: "This manuscript is a treasure trove of insight into the mind of one of the greatest literary figures of the past 100 years.

"Murphy was Beckett's first published novel. To see the novelist's development of some of the most famous passages in modern literature gives a unique insight into how he worked at an early stage in his career."

Dr Mark Nixon, Director of the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading, said: "The University of Reading is in many ways the centre of Beckett studies worldwide. Murphy has only been glimpsed briefly by a handful of scholars over the last half century. This major acquisition for the Beckett Collection at the University of Reading will open up access to this unique manuscript to Beckett scholars and the interested public the world over."

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said: "It is important that world-renowned institutions such as the University of Reading can continue to fund access to knowledge and the best resources for researchers and students. The acquisition of Murphy will provide unparalleled opportunities to learn more about one of the greatest writers in living memory, if not all time.

"In difficult economic circumstances, such purchases have to be considered very carefully. As the University of Reading's research on Beckett is one of our greatest strengths, we believed that it made eminent sense for us to pursue such a significant acquisition.

"We intend to fund the purchase of the Murphy manuscript by realising other less significant assets from the University's existing art and collections portfolio, currently valued at around £40 million. That way, we will ensure that those items we hold or purchase are consistent with the strengths and interests of the University."

The manuscript, which fills six notebooks, provides a text that is substantially different from the final printed edition in 1938. With its revisions, different colour inks, dated pages and doodles, it is an extraordinarily rich manifestation of Beckett's writing practices and provides a unique and deep insight into the mind and working practices of one of the greatest writers of the last hundred years.

The novel follows the main character, Murphy's attempts to find peace in the nothingness of the 'little world' of the mind, without intrusion from the outside world. It is Beckett's London novel, which he began writing in August 1935 whilst undergoing intensive psychoanalysis there. It was completed in Dublin in 1936 and unlike many of his other works, which were written in French, was written in English.

There are significant textual differences from the published novel throughout the manuscript. The most heavily revised passages provide fascinating evidence about the portions of the text that gave Beckett most trouble. Eight versions of the opening are crossed out until the Nobel prize-winning author eventually settled on "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new."

Peter Selley, Sotheby's Senior Specialist in Books and Manuscripts, commented: "This is unquestionably the most important manuscript of a complete novel by a modern British or Irish writer to appear at auction for many decades. The notebooks contain almost infinite riches. The manuscript is capable of redefining Beckett studies for many years to come."

Completion of Beckett's novel was followed by 40 rejections from publishers before Routledge eventually published the book in 1938. Although it received sympathetic reviews, it was not a success at the time of publication.


Lisa Dwan in a mesmerising performance of Not I

26 & 27 April 2013
Minghella Building

Celebrated Irish actor, Lisa Dwan, mesmerised audiences during two rare and exclusive performances of Not I at the University of Reading as part of its BIF anniversary celebrations, before taking the sell-out production to the Royal Court Theatre in May. Dwan played the role of Mouth in what is one of the most inspiring and challenging pieces in theatre history.

All attendees had the unique chance to see Beckett's original Not I manuscript, which is usually stored in the University's Beckett Collection.

Lisa Dwan, whose film credits include Walt Disney's Oliver Twist with Richard Dreyfus and Elisha Wood, and John Boorman's Tailor of Panama, said: "It was a complete privilege for me to have been invited to perform at the University of Reading. The new Minghella building is a fantastic space. It was incredible to be granted the rare opportunity to view Beckett's original manuscripts and discuss them with some of the world's experts on Beckett."

Not I is a short dramatic monologue (c.10mins) that takes place completely in the dark, illuminated only by a single beam of light which fixes on the actor's mouth above the stage. Everything else is blacked out.

It is 40 years since the premiere of Not I at the Royal Court Theatre in London, which featured Beckett's muse, Billie Whitelaw, in a groundbreaking performance. Following the performance, the audience watched a 10 minute documentary film, which featured an interview with Billie Whitelaw, and were then invited to participate in a Q+A session, during which Dwan explained some of the challenges of playing Mouth.

Josh Dugdale, who was in Friday's audience, said: "A wonderful performance by a brilliant actress. Inspiring, intimate and thought provoking."

Dr Mark Nixon, Director of the Beckett International Foundation, said: "It was a privilege to welcome Lisa Dwan to the University of Reading to perform Not I. This play is rarely staged due to its technical difficulties and the demands it puts on the actress performing the role."

For the BBC report on the production, including an interview with Lisa Dwan, click here.

Beckett at Reading 2013

4-7 April 2013
The Minghella Building, University of Reading

In 1988, with the support of Samuel Beckett, James Knowlson established the Beckett International Foundation as a charitable trust. The Foundation's objective is to promote the work of Samuel Beckett and to look after the Beckett Collection at the University of Reading, which originated in the Samuel Beckett Exhibition of 1971, and is now the most extensive collection of Beckett materials in the world.
To celebrate 25 years of the Foundation, the University hosted an academic conference with established and emerging scholars. There was also an exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of the premiere of En attendant Godot and film screenings. The highlight of our evening programme was a reading of Beckett's poetry and prose by Barry McGovern, world renowned for his interpretations of Samuel Beckett's work.


Announcing a new AHRC-funded project...

The University of Reading is to lead a new, AHRC funded project: 'Staging Beckett: the Impact of Productions of Samuel Beckett's Drama on Theatre Practice and Cultures in the United Kingdom and Ireland', which starts on 1 September 2012.

See for more information.


Beckett and Brain Science Symposium

27 April 2012
Museum of English Rural Life

As part of an AHRC-funded project on , the University of Reading held a symposium on 27 April 2012, organised by Dr Ulrika Maude. Over 50 delegates attended, and speakers were Professor James Knowlson (University of Reading), Dr Ulrika Maude (University of Reading), Dr Peter Fifield (St John's College, University of Oxford), Professor Dirk Van Hulle (University of Antwerp), Professor Mary Bryden (University of Reading), Jonathan Heron (University of Warwick and Artistic Director of Fail Better Productions) and Professor Ronald Schleifer (University of Oklahoma).

Beckett Research Seminar 2012 (BIF)

28 April 2012
Museum of English Rural Life

The annual Beckett International Foundation research seminar took place on 28 April 2012. Speakers were Yoshiki Tajiri (University of Tokyo), Laura Salisbury (Birkbeck College, University of London), Conor Carville (University of Reading) and Angela Moorjani (University of Maryland). Due to ill health, Adam Winstanley (University of York) was unfortunately unable to give his paper entitled '"A filthy circumstance": the peristaltic rhythm of Molloy'.



Beckett Research Seminar 2011 (BIF)

7 May 2011
Museum of English Rural Life

The annual Beckett International Foundation research seminar took place on 7 May 2011. Speakers were Peter Fifield (St Peter's College, Oxford), John Pilling (University of Reading), Derval Tubridy (Goldsmiths College, University of London), and Sean Kennedy (St Mary's University, Halifax).


Online catalogue of the Knowlson Collection goes live

The catalogue of the James and Elizabeth Knowlson Collection is now accessible online. To view the catalogue:

1. Go to
2. Click on the 'Advanced search' option in the left-hand menu.
3. Select 'Archives - Special Collections' from the drop-down box.
4. Type 'JEK' in the Reference box.
5. Click the Search button and a list of 2038 items will be retrieved.

Each item in the collection is briefly described, and ususally consists of a folder containing papers such as correspondence and notes. This material was collected by James Knowlson, Emeritus Professor at the University of Reading and author of the celebrated biography of Beckett, Damned To Fame.

Jonathan Bignell at Damascus workshop

Professor Jonathan Bignell visited Damascus, Syria, to present a series of talks and take part in a worshop organised by Damascus Theatre Lab with the support of the British Council in Syria. Participants included theatre directors, actors, scenographers, dramaturgs and critics, who met to discuss Beckett's work for the theatre and the various televions adaptations of Beckett's theatre plays.



Beckett Research Seminar

8 May 2010
Museum of English Rural Life

The Beckett International Foundation annual Research Seminar, now in its 22nd year, took place on 8 May 2010. Nearly fifty delegates attended, and the speakers were Jean-Michel Rabaté (University of Pennsylvania), Tatyana Hramova (University of Reading), Gaby Hartel (Berlin) and Alys Moody (Jesus College, University of Oxford).


Krapp's Last Tape

11 December 2009

The Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading presented the only UK performance of Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape. Rick Cluchey returned to the role of Krapp which he first performed in 1963 in San Quentin Prison where he was imprisoned for a decade. The play remains one of Beckett's major plays and was directed by Beckett himself on several occasions.


Beckett Research Seminar (BIF)

18 April 2009
Museum of English Rural Life

The Beckett Research Day Seminar took place on 18 April 2009. David Tucker, University of Sussex, traced the presence of the philosopher Geulincx in Beckett's work during the 1940s. Sean Lawlor, University of Reading, identified some verses Beckett sent to his inamorata Nuala Costello as the text of 'Seats of honour', a poem otherwise only known by its title. Antonia Rodriguez-Gago, University Autonimo of Madrid, who has translated many of Beckett's works into Spanish maintained the international tradition of these seminars in a paper that discussed the difficulties of finding appropriate cultural references to translate Beckett's literary allusions. Shane Weller, University of Kent, offered a convincing reading of Endgame as a staging of Freud's theory of the anal-sadistic phase.

Ronan McDonald at Trinity College, Dublin

Ronan McDonald delivered the prestigious Samuel Beckett Lecture at Trinity College, Dublin. This public lecture, entitled 'The Beckett brand', looked at the way in which Beckett's face has operated as a modern icon and how imagery, derived from his plays (e.g. Godot's boots) has circulated and signified through the wider culture, the stuff of newspaper cartoons and advertising campaigns.

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