CKP Research Seminar – ‘dull roar in the skull’: Beckett and Brain Science

You are invited to the second Centre for Cognition, Kinesthetics and Performance research seminar of this term on Wednesday 13th November at 5.30p.m, in the Aphra Theatre


‘dull roar in the skull’: Beckett and Brain Science

 Dr Elizabeth Barry (English, Warwick) and Jonathan Heron (IATL, Warwick)


This presentation will offer a conceptual framework, digital documentation and participants’ feedback, to demonstrate a new model of interdisciplinary practice in the medical humanities. Following a discursive paper, a video will show the pedagogic approaches used earlier this year within the National Health Service.


The paper will focus on one ‘case study’ in particular; Beckett’s play Not I, and the ways in which this work might engage questions about language and its relation to internal mental states that are also the subject of enquiry in psychiatric medicine. Drawing on ideas of practice-as-research and embodied learning in its methodology, the paper will explore how attention to the rhythm of the text, the way in which it dramatizes listening, the experience it offers of pressured speech (as found in hypomanic and manic illness), and the similarities and differences between its shape and content to formal thought disorder and neuropsychological linguistic deficit, might yield both intellectual and clinical insight.


The use of the digital documentation will pose questions regarding the role of practice-as-research (PaR) in knowledge production, which constitutes what Baz Kershaw calls ‘transdisciplinary innovation in action’ (EUP, 2011). As Mark Fleishman writes, PaR ‘is a series of embodied repetitions in time, on both micro and macro levels, in search of a difference’ (TRI, 2012), and this presentation will begin to explore the implications of this methodology for interdisciplinary fields such as the medical humanities.


Dr Elizabeth Barry is an Associate Professor in English at the University of Warwick. She has published widely on Beckett’s work, including a monograph, Beckett and Authority: The Uses of Cliché (Palgrave, 2006), and she edited a special issue of the Journal of Beckett Studies (‘Beckett, Language and the Mind’) in 2008. In the same year she also edited a special issue of the International Journal of Cultural Studies on the cultural history of celebrity. Her current work is in the area of modernism, brain science and ageing, and she recently held an AHRC Exploratory Award for a project entitled ‘Beckett and Brain Science’. She is currently editing a special issue of Journal of Medical Humanities on Beckett and the brain, and writing a monograph on modernism and ageing.


Jonathan Heron is the Artistic Director of Fail Better Productions and IATL Teaching Fellow at University of Warwick, where he received the 2010 Butterworth Award for Teaching Excellence. He is a co-author of Open-space Learning: A Study in Trans-disciplinary Pedagogy (Bloomsbury, 2011) and a contributor to Performing Early Modern Drama Today (CUP, 2012). He is a core member of the Beckett and Brain Science working group (AHRC Exploratory Award) and a committee member of the Education Strategy Group (Warwick Medical School). He has also made theatre with youth and community groups at Pegasus Oxford, including The Nativity (2010) and Mythologies (2011).


All are welcome. Please direct any queries to Professor Robert Shaughnessy: