Will Davies, a PhD student in the Department of English Literature, writes:
Over the summer, I spent a week at Trinity College, Dublin, home of the Samuel Beckett Summer School and Beckett’s alma mater. Supported by the generous bursary of the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading, I joined the students, enthusiasts and experts for a week of seminars, performances, lectures and the all-important Beckett quiz.
The week saw an international group of Beckett experts present engaging and thoughtful lectures on a wide variety of topics that ranged from the influence of Buddhist thought on Beckett’s intellectual developments to the often important role played by music in Beckett’s creative process. The week also involved a similarly extensive range of seminars which gave students the opportunity to work with scholars and practitioners on specific themes related to Beckett’s work. I joined the manuscript seminar for the week with the exciting opportunity to work with various manuscripts held at Trinity College. Reading’s Mark Nixon and University of Antwerp’s Dirk Van Hulle guided the seminar group through the various skills and techniques used in genetic criticism, as well as offering demonstrations of the rich resources on offer through the ongoing Beckett Digital Manuscript Project.
A particular highlight of the Summer School’s program were the evening events throughout the week. The imposing and evocative surrounds of the Dublin GPO (General Post Office, site of the Easter Rising in 1916) were a fitting location for Barry McGovern’s fantastic readings of a selection of Beckett’s prose. Though McGovern’s reading highlighted the tensions between Beckett and his home city, I found the performance to be as much about celebrating Beckett’s sense of humour as it was his particular brand of political and social commentary. Undoubtedly, however, it was the (in)famous Beckett quiz that caused the greatest stir of the week. Watched over by co-director of the Summer School Nick Johnson with his mathematically precise scoring system, Mark Nixon and Scott Hamilton challenged us all to delve into the depths of the teams’ Beckett knowledge. Just which text is that quote from? What year was that production? All manner of theme, period and obscurity were covered, and it is with a great pride to report that my team came second overall.
The Summer School was an exciting and inspiring week, perfectly organised by the Trinity team who should be commended for the variety of events, talks and seminars on offer. I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to have attended and encourage those with even a passing interest in Beckett’s life and writing to consider the Summer School. Here’s to 2017!