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Who owns Beckett? Reading leads on international research into modern literary archives – University of Reading

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Who owns Beckett? Reading leads on international research into modern literary archives

Release Date 11 July 2011

Samuel Beckett

The University of Reading has been awarded a prestigious grant to lead an international network that investigates the changing nature of literary manuscript culture in a global context. 

Given that authors migrate and papers become dispersed among collectors, families, publishing businesses, and archives in different countries, the spread of literary archives demands serious attention.

Under the banner of the Minority Identities Research Theme, researchers across four disciplines in the School of Languages and Literature have devised an International Network to investigate issues and practices relating to the location, ownership and interpretation of literary archives. 

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust for three years, Reading will be working with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; the University of Trinidad and Tobago; the Centro di Ricerca sulla Tradizione Manoscritta di Autori Moderni e Contemporanei at the University of Pavia; the Institut Memoires de l'Edition Contemporaine in France and the National Library and Archive Service of Namibia.

The aim of the network is to promote international collaboration in the preservation of and access to literary archives, such as the Samuel Beckett collections held at Reading, Dublin, Austin and Pavia. It will also address the development and gatekeeping of national literatures from the perspective of a variety of stakeholders.

At Reading, a team of five will co-ordinate and manage the network - Dr David Sutton from the Library, Dr Alison Donnell and Dr Andrew Nash from the Department of English Language and Literature, Dr Daniela La Penna and Dr Sophie Heywood from the Department of Modern Languages.

Recently the destination of individual archives has become a contested topic of international interest. Authors' lives and works often transcend national boundaries and the location of archives reflects this. This raises important questions of ownership and access.

Dr David Sutton, principle investigator for the project, explained: "We have established centres in Europe and North America but we want to be able to extend this to include the equal involvement of less visible but significant partners, with Trinidad and Namibia representing the Caribbean and Africa.

"The programme examines how the value and cultural authority of archives circulate by asking questions about the politics of location, the management and preservation of material and impediments to access and retrieval. We will also look at how in a digital age new technologies can improve access. We want to push back the national barriers that restrict scholarship and research in humanities."

As part of the project five workshops will be held across the three years in the different partner countries, to showcase notable archives and assess changes in technology, law and policy. The network will also produce an international online location register.

For more information about the project. Visit


For more information please contact Rona Cheeseman in the press office on 0118 378 7388 or email

 Notes to editors

The full project title is Diasporic Literary Archives: Questions of Location, Ownership and Interpretation and has been awarded an International Network Grant of £124,000 from the Leverhulme Trust.

The University of Reading is one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The University is ranked in the top 20 UK higher education institutions in securing research council grants worth nearly £10 million from EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, AHRC and BBSRC. In the latest Research Assessment Exercise (2008), over 87% of the University's research was deemed to be of international standing. Areas of particular research strength recognised include meteorology and climate change, typography and graphic design, archaeology, philosophy, food biosciences, construction management, real estate and planning, as well as law.

The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the Will of the first Viscount Leverhulme. It is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing funds of some £50 million every year. For further information about the schemes that the Leverhulme Trust fund visit their website at

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