The “Studies in Samuel Beckett: Beckett Beyond” module, designed and led by Céline Thobois, aimed to stimulate undergraduate students’ interest in researching Beckett’s life and work in connection with other areas and disciplines. While considering the design of the course, she looked for a form of assessment that would be both coherent with her feminist pedagogy and supportive of students’ contribution to research within the college and beyond, which developed as the “Beckett Beyond Zine Project”. Thanks to the collaboration with John Cremin, Siobhán Dunne, Terry McDonald, Edie Davis and Clodagh Neligan, who facilitated the cataloguing, archiving and exhibition of the zines, this project could come into fruition.
First Zine Workshop
Thobois was inspired to use zines for formative assessment by fellow PhD researcher Autumn Brown, who investigates art-science approaches to learning and the transdisciplinary evolution of scientific culture. Brown organised a zine workshop at the Trinity Long Room Hub, in which Thobois participated, which became key to preparing workshops on zines for students. In the first workshop, students were introduced to the genre by analysing and comparing several zines. They explored the history of the zine medium in social movements and the revolution of zine pedagogy within learning contexts. Students were assigned Brown et al.'s paper "Zines as Reflective Evaluation within Interdisciplinary Learning Programmes", in order to demonstrate the medium’s utility not only for self-expression and reflexivity, but also for research. At the end of this session, students were also given basic zine templates. In the second workshop, co-facilitated by Thobois and Brown, students were invited to workshop their ideas, so that the design of their zine would actively augment and expand the understanding of their research. During this session, they were also given a sample Beckett Beyond Zine (Issue 0). In the final two weeks before submission, students were able to attend one-on-one sessions to request feedback on their drafts.
Excerpt from a draft pocket zine made on week 1 in five minutes from the prompt “Beckett and I”
In the final week of term, students presented collectively the research outcomes of their projects and reflected on the challenges and the benefits of creating their research zines for the module. Students highlighted that time management and finding a way to limit the scope of their research were the parameters they struggled with the most. However, having a real public readership was exciting and motivating. They also felt empowered to conduct genuine research, in some cases using the library’s resources for the first time. They found the creative format liberating and shared that it enabled them to cultivate and nurture their own connection with the work and an effective means of communicating their research. Most students expressed that the publication, exhibition, cataloguing and archival of their material boosted their confidence in their academic skills. Throughout the exercise students developed original responses to Samuel Beckett’s work, entering into dialogue through multiple artistic media, while developing their own burgeoning research practice. It was a privilege to witness such exceptional originality and fresh insight in Beckett studies through this accessible and adaptive medium.