Written by Calum Weir (PhD student in English Literature).
I would like to extend a massive thank you to the staff and organisers at the University of Reading and the Samuel Beckett Archive for their incredibly warm welcome at their Modernist Archives in Context: Periodicals and Performance conference at the end of November, 2018, which was part of Reading’s Samuel Beckett week. The conference included a wide range of strong papers, which brought to the fore issues surrounding modernist magazine editing, publishing and readership, Beckett’s set design, emerging VR theatre practices, and audience interaction, as well as the relationship between archives and music.
My Research: Beckett listening to Beethoven while watching Macbeth
My paper was taken from part of my research on the influence of Beethoven on modernist literature, and focused on Samuel Beckett’s television play Ghost Trio, which incorporates segments from Beethoven’s ‘GeisterTrio’ into its drama. I tried to show how the play appeals simultaneously to multiple modes of apprehension (visuality, music, bodily gait, allusions literary and philosophical), and I contributed to an argument regarding Beckett’s creative sources for the play (Macbeth, Schopenhauer, Yeats, Jung), which claimed appeals to mysticism are not incompatible with materialism or Beckett’s insistence on the literal/ formal. I am particularly grateful to Professor John Pilling for his lively discussion after the paper and thoughtful questions raised in the Q&A on music and referentiality, and the young Adorno’s reading of Schubert.
Workshops and Archives
Throughout the conference, the organisers also offered insightful and informative workshops on the contents of the archives held at Reading University. Above is a photograph of myself with Beckett biographer, We are reading typescripts of Not I and Footfalls from the Samuel Beckett and Billie Whitelaw archives. This was part of a workshop led by Matthew McFrederick, and the typescripts contain Billie Whitelaw’s colour co-ordinated annotations on the plays that she took during discussions and rehearsals with Beckett. Professor Knowlson was very gracious, and it was fascinating to hear his memories of these rehearsals and how he interprets Whitelaw’s annotations. Overall, an amazing and special trip.
The Research Support Award
Over the past six months, I have been fortunate to receive two Research Support Awards: one in August (2018) to undertake archival research on Samuel Beckett, and one in November (2018) to present the findings of my research. This funding is invaluable to PhD students who have to travel to undertake research projects or present at conferences, and I would warmly encourage everyone to apply. Not only is the award a good opportunity to network or develop various research skills, but it can be a good way to clarify and reflect on research as well as wider career goals.