Author of A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing attains fellowship at the Samuel Beckett Research Centre
A multi-award-winning author will set out to create a new piece of creative work inspired by Samuel Beckett after being confirmed as the University of Reading’s first Beckett Creative Fellow.
Eimear McBride, whose novel The Lesser Bohemians won a James Tait Black Prize earlier this year, will have unique access to the University’s internationally-recognised Beckett Archive and be able to draw on academic expertise with in-depth knowledge of the Irish novelist, poet, and playwright.
McBride’s year-long fellowship is expected to be the first of three this year at Reading, funded by a £20,000 donation to the Samuel Beckett Research Centre, which launched in May. The Centre seeks to bring together experts at the University to promote world-leading research and support the creation of new original works inspired by Beckett.
McBride said: “It’s a tremendous honour, and pleasure, to be the inaugural holder of the Samuel Beckett Creative Fellowship and I’m very much looking forward to the daunting task of creatively engaging with Beckett’s inestimably important archive.”
McBride’s debut novel A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing won the 2013 Goldsmiths Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014.
The Beckett Archive, held in the University of Reading’s Special Collections, will allow her access to the largest collection of publicly accessible Beckett materials in the world. McBride will have access to notebooks Beckett kept while he worked, including drafts of his fiction, poetry and drama, that offer a special encounter with his creative process.
McBride will keep a record of her experience of working with the Beckett materials, in the form of a monthly journal, as she produces the new creative work.
Samuel Beckett’s work has had a massive legacy within English-language, European, US, and World literatures and cultures. Playwrights such as Harold Pinter and Elfriede Jelinek, novelists including J.M. Coetzee and Paul Auster, and composers including Philip Glass and Morton Feldman have each acknowledged their indebtedness to Beckett.
Professor Steven Matthews, Director of the Beckett Research Centre, said: “This fellowship will ensure that the Beckett Archive, already a collection that inspires so much wonder and interest among writers and the public, becomes also a practical and inspiring creative workshop.
“We are so pleased that, through this fellowship, the Beckett Research Centre will give birth to an original piece of work by the distinguished Irish writer, Eimear McBride, a work which will have threads of Beckett’s own writing running through it.”
About Eimear McBride
Eimear McBride grew up in the west of Ireland and studied acting at Drama Centre London. Her debut novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing received the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, the Desmond Elliot Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second novel, The Lesser Bohemians, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, Irish Novel of the Year and the RSL Encore Award. She occasionally writes and reviews for the Guardian, TLS, New Statesman and New York Times Book Review.
About the Samuel Beckett Research Centre
The Beckett Research Centre brings together academics and writers at the University of Reading to promote world-leading research, teaching and creative projects based around the University’s internationally-recognised Beckett Archive. It hosts collaborative writing, discussion and debate led by specialists from the departments of English Literature, Film, Theatre and Television, Modern Languages and Philosophy.
A key aspect of the Centre’s work is the support and funding of fellowships and scholarships with the aim of producing new creative work inspired by Beckett, such as radio and television plays, films, musical composition and visual art, alongside novels and short stories.
An annual programme of public events will be held at the Centre around a theme in current affairs that links to Beckett’s work. The inaugural research themes for 2017-19 are Beckett and the Environment, and Beckett and Europe.
The activities are based around the internationally-recognised Beckett Archive hosted by the Beckett International Foundation. Amongst the latest acquisitions at the Archive, located in the University of Reading’s Special Collections, is the original Murphy manuscript, comprising six notebooks relating to Beckett’s first published novel, and the archive of the pre-eminent Beckett actress, Billie Whitelaw.