Magic, Meaning and Manuscripts

Six Notebooks in Search of an Editor: Samuel Beckett’s Murphy

Andrew Nash, 26 Apr 2016, CEIR Seminar Series

Claiming that he has no critical authority in the field of Samuel Beckett, Dr Andrew Nash (University of Reading) confessed that his paper would shed no new light on Beckett’s writings. The paper was, instead, a thought-provoking account of the changes taking place in manuscript research, the increasing emphasis on the materiality of the manuscript, and the technological conditions (writing instruments and papers) that influence literary production. Nash’s research also provided the centre with an invaluable insight into the status of the modern literary manuscript as an artefact of considerable commercial value, and, in the case of Beckett’s Murphy notebooks, the ways in which the commercial and the scholarly are indelibly intertwined.


Professor Carl Phelpstead introduces Dr Andrew Nash

In July 2013, the University of Reading successfully purchased at auction six manuscript notebooks, detailing the composition of Beckett’s first novel Murphy (1938). Justifying their bid of £950,000, the University maintained that the acquisition of the manuscript would solidify its reputation as a central archival resource for Beckett’s work, and attract more scholars and researchers to Reading. (more…)

Visiting Speaker, 26 Apr 2016: Andrew Nash on Samuel Beckett’s Murphy Notebooks

Andrew Nash (University of Reading) will be presenting his paper, ‘Six Notebooks in Search of an Editor: Samuel Beckett’s Murphy’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 26 April 2016. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 4.43, and will be followed by a wine reception.

2015.08.nashIn 2013 the University of Reading was unexpectedly successful in acquiring at auction six manuscript notebooks which had for almost eighty years remained in private hands. The notebooks were those in which Samuel Beckett had written, over some ten months between August 1935 and June 1936, the first draft of what was finally to emerge in 1938 as his first published novel, Murphy. This talk will outline the unusual provenance history of this literary manuscript and discuss the status of the notebooks as commercialised, heritage and research objects. It will reflect on the experience of helping to transcribe and edit the notebooks, examining their distinctive material features which shed important new light on Beckett’s composition process and on the ‘archaeology’ of modern literary manuscripts more generally. (more…)

Visiting speaker, 10 Feb 2015: Freya Johnston on editing Thomas Love Peacock

Freya Johnston (University of Oxford) will be presenting her paper, ‘Medieval Graffiti: Editing Thomas Love Peacock’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 10 February 2015. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.

This paper reflects on the challenges and rewards of editing a writer whose works have routinely been described as ‘inaccessible’. Even if his comic fictions abound, like Jane Austen’s, with clever, good-looking women and with sparkling dialogue that culminates in marriage, Peacock’s repartee can be hard to follow. This is partly because he does not aspire to the portrayal of interiority—perhaps the most cherished aspect of Austen’s novels. Rather, his characters, both male and female, exist primarily in order to share, voice, and test the limits of their ideas. His fictions, rebuffing intimacy, are inescapably political and intellectual. This paper will show that to approach the nineteenth-century novel via Peacock is to see it as an outward-facing genre indebted to philosophical tracts, lectures, classical dialogues and the rhythms of parliamentary debate. (more…)

The experiment: Engaging undergraduates in advanced university research


It started out as an experiment. We took the brains of a dozen undergraduate students and carefully placed them into the flailing bodies of several research projects; we fired up the electricity (well, actually, set up a webpage) and … the Project Management and Research module was born.

I have become very fond of what we have all created this year. Anthony and I have worked together on projects for over a decade now (hard to believe, I know) and it seemed like a good idea to share some of what we have learned along the way and pass on our genuine enthusiasm for project-based work. In an academic environment that is increasingly stressing employability and the transferability of skills, this module ticks all the boxes. I hope that it has given our first cohort of students a taste of research in an academic context and the opportunity to exploit the talent they have and bring out new talents they never knew they had. (more…)

What Is Scholarly Editing (WISE)? New AHRC-funded training network

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has awarded a Collaborative Skills Development training grant for ‘WISE—What is Scholarly Editing?’ The programme is led by Dr Wim Van Mierlo at the Institute of English Studies, in collaboration with Dr Jane Winters (Institute of Historical Research),  Dr Anthony Mandal (Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, Cardiff University) and Dr Jason Harding (Department of English, University of Durham).

Scholarly editing and the production of critical editions underpin much research in the humanities, notably in the fields of Classics, History and Literary Studies. Yet training in appropriate theoretical and methodological approaches, and importantly research management skills, is practically absent from existing research skills programmes available to postgraduate students and early career researchers. A significant portion of critical and scholarly editions are produced, it would appear, by editors who are largely self-taught. The objective of the WISE programme is to offer training and guidance for new editors to gain some experience early on in their career as editors. The development of an appropriate training framework for this core humanities research activity will help both to enhance the national skill set and to secure increased recognition for editorial activity, and indeed for collaborative, trans-disciplinary editorial work more generally. (more…)