Postgraduate research

beck-graffitiThere is a vibrant cross-departmental postgraduate community involved in Beckett Studies at Reading. This is enhanced by the recently formed Postgraduate group (Beckett at Reading Postgraduates & Early-Career Researchers) and the Beckett PG Forum - a series of termly meetings enabling postgraduates to meet together in an informal setting to discuss their research, give papers, and discuss related topics of interest.

Postgraduate researchers are valued in and integral to the Centre. They develop good working relationships with staff and are an active part of research events and initiatives.

Staff specialising in Samuel Beckett are experienced PhD supervisors and would be happy to consider enquiries for projects on Beckett. As well as providing standard postgraduate research pathways, the University also offers a Doctoral Training Programme for collections-based research. This programme provides additional training for postgraduate scholars whose research is based on archival materials.  


Details of some our current and recently graduated postgraduate researchers can be found below:

    • Helen Bailey: 'Spirituality & Music in the Works of Samuel Beckett'
    • Michela Bariselli: 'Samuel Beckett & Humour'
    • Niamh Bowe: 'Early Phenomenology and the aesthetics of suffering in Samuel Beckett's non-prose work'
    • Will Davies: 'Beckett & Posthumanism'
    • Antonio Gambacorta: 'Beckett & the City' 
    • Matthew McFrederick: 'A Historiography of London Productions of Samuel Beckett's Drama'
    • Sarah-Jane Scaife: 'The Culturally Inscribed Body and Spaces of Performance in Samuel Beckett's Theatre' 
    • Giovanna Vincenti: 'Psycho-pathologies in James Joyce and Samuel Beckett' 

Helen BaileyHelen Bailey

'Spirituality and Music in the works of Samuel Beckett'

Helen completed AHRC-funded research in 2014 on the connection between music and ideas of 'spirit' in Beckett's writing. Many explicit references to these aspects of Beckett's oeuvre were excised from his published works and banished to the realm of 'unheard music'. Helen's research therefore involved the integration of theoretical approaches to music and spirituality with detailed archival study. Helen's wider research interests include contemporary British poetry and narrative theory. 


Conference papers:

  • 'Better abort: rhythmic totality and an aesthetics of spirit in Beckett's Worstward Ho', at Modernist Musics & Political Aesthetics Conference, University of Nottingham (April 2015).
  • 'Ex(or)cised angels: unheard music and suppressed spirituality in Beckett's Watt', at Beckett International Foundation Annual Research Seminar, University of Reading (October 2014).
  • '"Plane of white music": Samuel Beckett's ethereal sounds', at the Debts and Legacies Postgraduate Symposium, University of Oxford (June 2012).
  • '"Damning the life of the body on earth": Samuel Beckett's Proustian music', at the 'Modernism, Christianity, and Apocalypse' Conference, University of Bergen (July 2012).


Dr Mark Nixon - Department of English Literature


Michela Bariselli

'Samuel Beckett and Humour'


Professor Max De-Gaynesford - Department of Philosophy

Dr Mark Nixon - Department of English Literature


Niamh Bowe

'Early Phenomenology and the aesthetics of suffering in Samuel Beckett's non-prose work'

Niamh's AHRC funded research examines the aesthetics of Beckett's work in film, television and performance. This research focuses on a phenomenological reading of Beckett's aesthetic techniques. Instead of using more dominant phenomenological discourse she will be returning to the founders of the phenomenological movement, Husserl and Scheler, to gain a new perspective. In conjunction, the research will also incorporate a practical analysis of Beckett's use of film and television. Niamh's aim is to distinguish the aesthetics of Beckett's later work through film, performance and television discourse instead of literary discourse. Niamh's research therefore involves a detailed study of all of Beckett's non-prose work with extensive archival study.

Niamh is also funded by the Collections-Based Research PhD programme.


Professor Anna McMullan - Department of Film, Theatre and Television

Professor Jonathan Bignell - Department of Film, Theatre and Television


Will DaviesWill Davies

Beckett and Posthumanism

Will's research project reassesses Beckett's experiences of the Second World War and subsequent post-war writing in relation to European humanism and the Enlightenment. By assessing Beckett's experiences in Nazi Germany, Vichy France, the hospital project of Saint-Lô, and liberated Paris, this project will show how Beckett can be read as an author that responds to the failures of the Enlightenment project that were exemplified in the events of the war. Through locating Beckett within the context of posthumanist thinkers such as Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Michel Foucault, the project will show how Beckett was part of a historically situated cultural movement that used the war to mount a critique on the philosophical, cultural and historical legacies of Enlightenment humanism.

Will is the current Chair of the Beckett at Reading Postgraduate Group and Administrator of the Beckett Research Forum. His wider interests include the contemporary novel, critical theory and modernist writing, reception and publishing.


Professor Steven Matthews - Department of English Literature


Antonio Gambacorta

'Beckett and the City'

Antonio is researching Beckett's depiction of the 20th century city, its shifting populations, marginal spaces, institutions, informal networks. Drawing on philosophical analysis of the concepts of city, place and space, as well as on urban planning, architecture, textual scholarship, and on Franco Moretti's idea that maps are a way into the internal logic of the narrative, the study proposes to show that in Beckett place is not a passive stage but an active force. 'Beckett and the City' is a Collections-Based Research project.

Department of English Literature


Matthew McFrederickMatthew McFrederick

'A Historiography of London Productions of Samuel Beckett's Drama'

Matthew is researching the production histories of Samuel Beckett's drama in London. This thesis will examine significant productions of Beckett's work from the London premiere of Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre in 1955 to Harold Pinter's performance in Krapp's Last Tape at the Royal Court in 2006. Matthew's project will provide an overview of productions of Beckett's drama, analysing how they have been interpreted by different theatre practitioners and their reception in performance. This performance historiography will reflect on the impact of Beckett's drama on performers, directors, designers and how it transformed British and Irish theatre. By reflecting on productions from different eras, this thesis aims to gain a greater understanding of how Beckettian performance has developed as the sixtieth anniversary of Godot's London premiere approaches in 2015.

This PhD is part of the AHRC-funded  which will assess the Impact of Productions of Samuel Beckett's Drama on Theatre Practice and Cultures in the United Kingdom and Ireland (1955-2010). As well as the University of Reading, this project works in collaboration with the University of Chester and the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Professor Anna McMullan - Department of Film, Theatre and Television


Sarah Jane ScaifeSarah Jane Scaife

'The Culturally Inscribed Body and Spaces of Performance in Samuel Beckett's Theatre'

Sarah Jane is using practice-as-research methodologies, drawing on her practice as a performer and director, to research the importance of the signifying body and its placement within different sites of performance in the drama of Samuel Beckett. She is specifically interested in the play Act Without Words II. Her research questions on the culturally inscribed body and space arise from her work as a director of Beckett's drama in Ireland and internationally (Europe and Asia). As part of her doctoral project she has presented Act Without Words II at festivals in Dublin, London, New York and Limerick.


  • 'Using the practice of theatre to create intercultural dialogues: my experience with practice based projects in China', in Wang Zhanpeng (ed.), Sino-Irish Relations: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2011) pp. 166-184.
  • Sarah Jane Scaife & Li Yuan (eds.), By the Bog of Cats, by Marina Carr: Playtext with essays on intercultural perspectives in a Mandarin translation by Li Yuan (Beijing: Beijing Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2010).
  • 'Performing Women in Tom Mac Intyre's Drama', in Bernie Sweeney & Marie Kelly (eds.), The Theatre of Tom Mac Intyre: Strays from the Ether (Dublin: Carysfort University Press, 2010) pp. 181-197.
  • 'Mutual Beginnings', in Cathy Leeney & Anna McMullan (eds.), The Theatre of Marina Carr (Dublin: Carysfort University Press, 2003) pp. 1-16.

Conference papers:

  • 'Considering the Universal in Samuel Beckett's Later Drama': Samuel Beckett Summer School, Trinity College (2011).
  • 'Intercultural dialogues between China and Ireland': A lecture which incorporated the reading of scenes from the Mandarin translation of By the Bog of Cats, by Marina Carr, translated by Dr. Li Yuan, at the Long Room Hub, TCD, for the Festival of the Chinese New Year (2011).
  • 'The Grieving Body: An analysis of the signification of the body in Samuel Beckett's Act Without Words 11, paper given at the Irish Society for Theatre Research, Trinity College Dublin (2010).
  • 'Samuel Beckett: Universal Writer?' paper given at The International Forum for Theatre Research, Helsinki (2006).
  • 'Samuel Beckett: Universal Writer?" Samuel Beckett Conference, Panteoin University, Athens, Greece (2006).
  • 'Parricide and Infanticide as a Metaphor for the Wasteland of Family in Irish Theatre.' Paper given at the conference, "Year of Pericles", Delphi, Greece (2005).



Professor Anna McMullan - Department of Film, Theatre and Television

Professor Lib Taylor - Department of Film, Theatre and Television


Giovanna VincentiGiovanna Vincenti

Psycho-pathologies in James Joyce and Samuel Beckett

Giovanna is researching the different ways in which early 20th century psychological and psychiatric conceptions and treatments of mental illness influenced the composition of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake and Samuel Beckett's early English prose.

Her research investigates Joyce's and Beckett's personal and artistic experiences with psycho-pathologies and how they affect their works, stressing the importance of the oscillation between physical and psychological approaches, psychiatric and psychoanalytical techniques, bodily and mental diseases.

Giovanna's wider research interests include English Romanticism, Modernism, neurosciences and medical humanities.


Dr Conor Carville - Department of English Literature


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