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.