Beckett and the Phenomenology of Doodles

Doodles from the manuscripts and notebooks of Samuel BeckettThe three-year research project 'Beckett and the Phenomenology of Doodles: A Visual and Theoretical Analysis', began in October 2006 and is funded by The Leverhulme Trust. The work focuses on the spontaneous drawings – 'doodles' – that the writer Samuel Beckett included in his manuscripts and notebooks. The project has catalogued Beckett's spontaneous drawing, and examined them through artistic practice and theoretical work. The research evaluates the philosophical and aesthetic significance of spontaneous drawing for Beckett's oeuvre, and contributes to the theorisation of doodles in relation to psychopathology and the phenomenology of perception. The research makes use of the University of Reading's archive collection of manuscripts, notebooks, typescripts, drafts and annotated copies, donated by Beckett and others. While many scholars have analysed and interpreted Beckett's published work, the doodles that Beckett made on them have never before been considered either as means to illuminate his written ideas or as visual art in themselves.

The project brings together expertise in research through art practice, design theory and academic study of Beckett's work. The project is led by Professor Jonathan Bignell, together with Martin Andrews in Reading's Department of Typography & Graphic Communication and Dr Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield from the Fine Art Department. The visual artist Dr Bill Prosser works on the collection of Beckett's papers preserved at Reading to investigate the relationship between Beckett's doodles and the philosophical concerns of his writings.

The outcomes of the research include exhibitions of drawings by Bill Prosser in Paris, Oxford, Rome and the Harry Ransom Centre in Texas. Dr Prosser published the essay 'Object Drawing' in the Performance Research journal in 2007. The research addresses both a visual arts audience and one from a background in Beckett criticism, and connects with the activities of the Beckett International Foundation at at the University of Reading.

Selections of the drawings have so far been shown at the Taylor Institution, University of Oxford; Warwick University; The University of Rome; Art et Litterature, Paris; The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas. A large group is currently on show at the Naughton Gallery, Queen's University, Belfast (until March 21) and further exhibitions are planned later this year at St. Mary's Stow, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of California.

The front cover of Bill Prosser's book:

Beckett Doodle HWfrcov


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