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Professor Nicola J Watson
Professor Nicola J Watson trained at Oxford where she specialised in the literature and culture of the period 1780-1830, studying with Jonathan Wordsworth, Marilyn Butler, and Paul Hamilton. When Nicola was awarded the John Knox Fellowship to Harvard University in 1985, she went there to study and then to teach, before moving to Northwestern University in Chicago, spending a total of ten years working in the US. She then returned to teach again at Oxford, before joining The Open University in 2000.
Nicola’s world-leading research deals with the history of literary tourism (the practice of visiting sites associated with writers and their works). She is an expert on the history of literary fandom, authorial celebrity, and literary biography, and especially in the creation of writers’ house museums. She is the author of two major cross-over books recognised around the world as founding these fields of study and as ground-breaking in their topic, approach, and scope: The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain (Palgrave, 2006), and The Author’s Effects: On the Writer’s House Museum (Oxford University Press, 2020). Take a look at her long-running blog, which tells of her many adventures as a literary tourist. Watson has created well-loved teaching materials for The Open University about many of the books featured in this series, including Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Swallows and Amazons.
In addition, Nicola is a specialist in travel-writing and especially in the history/philosophy of walking (links here with Stevenson and Lee), memoir and life-writing, and detective fiction (links here with Highsmith), with an amateur but long-pursued interest in the history of cookbooks and foodwriting from the Renaissance to the present (links here to David and the tradition of scholar-cooks).
Nicola is experienced in working with the BBC, notably as the nominated academic and interviewed contributor on the first and second series of The Secret Life of Books, which derived some of its focus on places associated with writers and their works from her approach. Other relevant media appearances have included Time Team (Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey), and contributions to BBC Radio 4’s Night Waves on Oxford as a literary tourist hotspot. Appearances at literary festivals, in demand as public speaker at writer’s house museums etc.
Consultant to the British Library exhibition Writing the Nation (2012); consultant to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on the redevelopment of Shakespeare’s New Place (2012-2016); currently working with writer’s house museums across Europe on the futures of place-building, physical and virtual.
Academic advisor for: Become a student: study English Literature, Cider in bohemia, Cider with Rosie, Circulation wars, Confessions of an English Opium Eater, Edward Lear's Nonsense Songs, Graphic books, Island adventures, Learn some nonsense by heart, Make a map, Make your own confession, Making it into print, Reading in and out of the nursery, Recycled stories, Swallows and Amazons, The author at home, The Faerie Queene, The lost key, The Mill on the Floss, The real places that inspired Eliot, The real Swallows, Titles that sell, Visit Poet's Corner, Walk with Laurie Lee, Why size matters, Why study English language?, Great Expectations, The Secret Life of Books, The Secret Life of Books
Professor Nicola J Watson's activities
Browse 5 OpenLearn items Professor Nicola J Watson has worked on
2017 marked the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death and to commemorate this she is now featured on the £10 note. Find out whether the note truly represent's Austen's life and work...
22 Aug 2017
By Morgan Johnston (originally posted to Flickr as Balmoral Hotel) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license
In January 2007, J.K. Rowling finished writing 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' in a room at the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh. What drives literary tourists to visit the room where she penned the final chapter?
06 Jul 2017
Feeling loving, adventurous or scared? Poetry Prescription will find you the perfect poem to reflect your mood.
07 Sep 2016
Why do people visit museums of writers' homes? Discover the secret life of authors in this short video.
20 Oct 2015
From the hearts on your Valentine's card to the skull of a martyr in a Roman altar, what's the connection?
13 Feb 2014
Professor Nicola J Watson's Research & Publications
Professor Nicola J Watson (2020) The Author’s Effects: On the Writer’s House Museum, Oxford University Press (In Press)
Professor Nicola J Watson (2018) [Book Review] Transatlantic Literature and Author Love in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Paul Westover and Ann Wierda Rowland, In Victorian Studies 4(60)
Professor Nicola J Watson (2016) At Juliet's Tomb: Anglophone Travel-writing and Shakespeare's Verona, 1814-1914, Routledge
Professor Nicola J Watson (2015-11) Gardening with Shakespeare, Cambridge University Press
Professor Nicola J Watson (2015-05-05) Rousseau on the Tourist Trail, Palgrave Macmillan
Professor Nicola J Watson (2015) Epistolary fiction(2), Oxford University Press
Professor Nicola J Watson (2013) American Travel-writing and the invention of 'Story-book England', University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies
Professor Nicola J Watson (2013) Exhibiting Literature. Austen Exhibited, transcript Verlag
Professor Nicola J Watson (2012-12-13) Holiday excursions to Scott country, Palgrave Macmillan
Professor Nicola J Watson (2012-09-25) Afterlives, Edinburgh University Press
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