Samuel Beckett’s Doodles: What do they mean?

Bill Prosser of the University of Reading explores Samuel Beckett’s doodles and discusses doodling as an under-appreciated art form on Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Harry Ransom Center. Seating is free, but limited. This event will also be webcast live.

Although doodling is everywhere, it is often overlooked in writing about art, receiving less critical attention than its more public relative, graffiti.

Prosser hopes to rectify this imbalance. His talk will cover a history of spontaneous drawings, using the doodles of Irish writer Samuel Beckett as an example. Beckett’s images demonstrate how doodling acts as a mirror, reflecting the complicated visual soup in which we all swim.

Prosser’s talk will include background on the history of doodles and cover politicians’ doodles of the 19th- and 20th-centuries; drawings by writers; the doodle craze of the 1930s; the difficulties of psychological interpretation; Japanese Haboku drawings; drawings by children and the insane; links with medieval plea rolls, graffiti, and illumination; Surrealist automatism; 20th-century Modernism; and popular culture.

Preview some of Beckett’s doodles in the Ransom Center’s online exhibition Fathoms from Anywhere: A Samuel Beckett Centenary Exhibition. To learn more about Prosser’s work, check out The Mystique of the Archive.

Are you a doodler? Leave a comment and tell us what recurring motifs pop up in the margins of your writing pad.

8 thoughts on “Samuel Beckett’s Doodles: What do they mean?

  1. my stepson writes his name all the time in big bubble graffiti letters… everywhere. on the left of his school papers and all over his notebooks. he seldom does any other kind of doodling. do you know what this means if there is any meaning at all? also I tend to draw eyes(usually one) or flowers or arrows. what does that mean?

  2. umm.. hi
    i draw doodles..
    these are squares and inside them is a cross that divides the square in 4 parts and then i draw a plus all lines having the same centre.. i draw them anywhere on paper.. usually on top and on bottom..
    may i know wat they mean? plz.

  3. i draw doodles all the time. the same things and i wanted to know what they ment. i draw faces but only faces with big eyes?? i write my name over and over again?? lots of stars?? also a 3d box. i also draw lovehearts but not all the time. please can you tell me what this means

  4. I doodle my name, in block letters, I write out my name in script, and I draw stars. I do this during meetings, during conference calls, pretty much any time I have a pen and paper. Also, looking around at the many scraps of paper on my desk, I draw a lot of arrows to. Some filled in, and some not.

  5. I doodle on my note book in class and now i am researching doodling for a grade. Where does doodling come from? Does it have a purpose?

  6. My theory of why we doodle 3d boxes & eyes.
    We are being watched by an intelligent life in another dimension. With no means of communication or understanding, our only connection at the moment is through thought alone.

  7. I draw a big eye and my name all over the place plus horses dogs and of course hearts and I play with other peoples names and designs them and little cartoons all over my papers everyone knows there mine due to the scribbles

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