Beckett and the Phenomenology of Doodles:
A Visual and Theoretical Analysis (2006 - 2009)
Funded by the The Leverhulme Trust, this project evaluated the philosophical and aesthetic significance of spontaneous drawing - 'doodles' - in the study of Beckett's work. While many scholars have analysed and interpreted Samuel Beckett's written and performed work, the doodles contained in his manuscripts and notebooks had never before been considered as a means to illuminate his written ideas, or as visual art in themselves.
The research made use of the University of Reading's archive collection of manuscripts, notebooks, typescripts, drafts and annotated copies, donated by Beckett and others. By cataloguing his doodles and examining them through artistic practice and theoretical work, the project contributed to a theorisation of doodles, exploring how they relate to psychopathology and the phenomenology of perception.
Exhibitions and other outputs
Visual artist, Dr Bill Prosser, worked 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.
Exhibitions of drawings by Prosser were held at the Taylor Institution, University of Oxford; Warwick University; The University of Rome; Art et Litterature, Paris; The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas; the Naughton Gallery, Queen's University, Belfast; St. Mary's Stow, Trinity College Dublin; and the University of California. They have been published together in a book by Prosser titled Human Wishes: a selection of drawings based on the marginalia of Samuel Beckett (Reading: University of Reading, 2008).
Prosser also published an essay, "Object Drawing" in the Performance Research journal (2007). The research addresses both a visual arts audience and one from a background in Beckett criticism, and connected with the activities of the Beckett International Foundation.
The project brought together expertise in research through art practice, design theory and academic study of Beckett's work. It was led by Professor Jonathan Bignell (University of Reading - Film, Theatre and Television), Martin Andrews (University of Reading - Typography & Graphic Communication) and Dr Jonathan Dronsfield (formerly University of Reading - Fine Art).