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Beckett and Brain Science 3

18th September 2012, Milburn House, University of Warwick

The symposium heard from psychiatrists and doctors who use Beckett’s work to reflect on their own clinical understanding and practice, and in their teaching. Beckett’s work in performance offered a practical challenge to epistemologies and classifications current in medicine. Experts in the fields of psychiatry, neurology, philosophy and the theatre explored the ways in which theatre and literature can offer insights into mental and neurological disorders.

9.45-10.15 Coffee and registration / 10.15-10.30am Welcome and introduction

10.30am-11am Not I Event by Fail Better Productions

11am-12.30pm Parallel session:
‘Not I’ Workshop: (chair: Jonathan Heron/Dr Matthew Broome). This exploratory workshop, involving some practical activity, is designed for medical students, trainees and practising clinicians. It will explore Beckett’s play in performance and reflect on the insights it may give into concepts of mental disorder, and doctor-patient interactions.

‘Not I’ Seminar: (chair: Dr Elizabeth Barry and expert witnesses). This seminar will reflect on Beckett's play from various theoretical and clinical perspectives. It will engage with Gilles Deleuze's piece 'He Stuttered' (1993), which will be pre-circulated. The text of Not I can be found (embedded in a short and thought-provoking essay by Slavoj Zizek!) at

12.30-12.45pm Feedback discussion, allowing both groups to exchange findings / 12.45-1.30pm Lunch

1.30pm-3pm Panel 1: Theatre and Brain Science (chair: Jonathan Heron)
Dr Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (English, University of Oxford): 'This Old Muckball': Beckett's Evolutionary Vision
Dr Hunter Groninger (Palliative Care/ Medical Education, National Institutes of Health, Maryland/
University of Virginia): ‘Alone Gone’: Using Beckett’s Short Plays in Medical Education.

3-4.15pm Panel 2: Psychiatry and the Humanities (chair: Dr Matthew Broome)

Prof. Femi Oyebode (Psychiatry, University of Birmingham): Madness at the Theatre

Dr Angela Woods (Philosophy/ Medical Humanities, Durham University): In Dialogue with Matthew Broome

4.15-4.45pm Afternoon break

4.45-5.30pm Round-table discussion: Beckett and Brain Science: Theory and Practice (chair: Dr Barry)

Dr Jonathan Cole (Neuroscience, University of Southampton); Dr Hunter Groninger (NIH/Virginia); Dr Laura Salisbury (English, Birkbeck, London); Dr Ulrika Maude (English, University of Reading); Prof. Femi Oyebode (Birmingham)

Dr Jonathan Cole, Extract from the round-table discussion

Responses to the day can be found at the following blogs by Angela Woods and Helen Mort; the project team are extremely grateful to these bloggers, the symposium participants and the contributing departments (English, HRC, IATL, WMS). Photography in this section is by Peter Marsh of ashmorevisuals, commissioned by Fail Better Productions. More audio documentation will follow in due course.

For more information, please contact Dr Elizabeth Barry: