The Archive and the Edition: Digital Humanities for Literary Studies, 26 May 2016

Speakers: Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon

26 May 2016,  11.00 – 16.00 Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Senate House, Malet St, London

Registration is available through the main CHASE website.

The training will enable arts and humanities students using archival material to understand how the archive supports and expands knowledge in literary analysis, and how to negotiate the increasingly digitised form of such archival material. Genetic studies is a growing field within literary studies. It has always been the case that some literary critics base their interpretations on an understanding of how a writer wrote, based on evidence from the archive, however the increased access to this evidence through digital formats has meant that scholars are using with increasing efficacy.

The manuscripts of Samuel Beckett will be used as a case study to discuss the range of issues such as making manuscripts accessible, transcription, encoding, and interpretation. The methodological framework of the training is the theory of genetic criticism, which sets itself a double task: the ‘genetic’ task of making the manuscripts accessible (ordering, deciphering and transcribing), resulting in a genetic dossier, and the ‘critical’ task of reconstructing the genesis from a chosen point of view (psychoanalysis, sociocriticism, narratology). Different methods of transcription (diplomatic, linear, topographic) and encoding (markup languages, the Text Encoding Initiative’s guidelines) will be discussed and applied to Beckett’s manuscripts. The potential interpretive consequences of this genetic research will be explored.

Target audience: The training will be applicable to all students who will be accessing archival material as part of their doctoral training.

Training Co-ordinator: Dr Derval Tubridy, Dean of the Graduate School, Goldsmiths, University of London.


Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon are world-leading researchers in this field. They work together on the The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project which is a collaboration between the Centre for Manuscript Genetics (University of Antwerp), the Beckett International Foundation (University of Reading) and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (University of Texas at Austin). The development of this project started from two initiatives: (1) the ‘in-house’ genetic edition of four works by Samuel Beckett (a cooperation between the Universities of Antwerp and Reading), and (2) the Series of Variorum Editions of Samuel Beckett’s Bilingual Works, initiated in 1986 by Charles Krance, with the permission and support of Samuel Beckett. With the kind permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett, these initiatives were developed into the Beckett Digital Manuscript Archive, which combines genetic criticism with electronic scholarly editing, applied to the study of Beckett’s manuscripts.

The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project consists of two parts: (a) a digital archive of Samuel Beckett’s manuscripts, organized in 26 research modules. Each of these modules comprises digital facsimiles and transcriptions of all the extant manuscripts pertaining to an individual text, or in the case of shorter texts, a group of texts, (b) a series of 26 volumes, analyzing the genesis of the texts contained in the corresponding modules. The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project aims to contribute to the study of Beckett’s works in various ways: by enabling readers to discover new documents and see how the dispersed manuscripts of different holding libraries interrelate within the context of a work’s genesis in its entirety; by increasing the accessibility of the manuscripts with searchable transcriptions in an updatable digital archive; by highlighting the interpretive relevance of intertextual references that can be found in the manuscripts. The Project may also enhance the preservation of the physical documents as users will be able to work with digital facsimiles. The purpose of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project is to reunite the manuscripts of Samuel Beckett’s works in a digital way, and to facilitate genetic research: the project brings together digital facsimiles of documents that are now preserved in different holding libraries, and adds transcriptions of Beckett’s manuscripts, tools for bilingual and genetic version comparison, a search engine, and an analysis of the textual genesis of his works. The work on this project proceeds in a modular way. Once the electronic genetic edition of a work is completed, the accompanying analysis of the work’s genesis is published in print with a selection of facsimile images.

About the speakers

Mark Nixon is Associate Professor in Modern Literature at the University of Reading, where he is also Director of the Beckett International Foundation. With Dirk Van Hulle, he is editor in chief of the Journal of Beckett Studies and Co-Director of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project. He is also an editor of Samuel Beckett Today /Aujourd’hui and the current President of the Samuel Beckett Society. He has published widely on Beckett’s work; recent books include the monograph Samuel Beckett’s German Diaries 1936-37 (Continuum, 2011), the edited collection Publishing Samuel Beckett (British Library, 2011) and Samuel Beckett’s Library, written with Dirk Van Hulle (Cambridge UP, 2013). His critical edition of Beckett’s short story Echo’s Bones was published by Faber in April 2014. He is currently preparing critical editions of Beckett’s Critical Writings (with David Tucker; Faber) and Beckett’s German Diaries (with Oliver Lubrich; Suhrkamp), as well as The Bloomsbury Companion to Modernist Literature (with Ulrika Maude; Bloomsbury, 2015).

Dirk Van Hulle is professor of English literature at the University of Antwerp (Centre for Manuscript Genetics). His recent publications include the monographs Modern Manuscripts: The Extended Mind and Creative Undoing (2014) and (with Shane Weller) The Making of Samuel Beckett’s L’Innommable/The Unnamable (2014). With Mark Nixon, he is co-director of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (BDMP,, author of Samuel Beckett’s Library (CUP, 2013), and editor in chief of the Journal of Beckett Studies. He is currently preparing the second edition of the Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett (Cambridge UP).

This CHASE training is part of a three day event at the School of Advanced Study. The subsequent two days require prior approval from your institution andinvolve a seperate registration at the SAS – more information and call for paper here.