Skip to content

OpenLearn Profile

Profile: Professor Nicola J. Watson

Professor Nicola J. Watson

The Open University, English Department

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. 

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, Great Expectations, The Secret Life of Books

Professor Nicola J. Watson's activities

Browse 6 OpenLearn items Professor Nicola J. Watson has worked on

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 (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

Browse Professor Nicola J. Watson 's latest research on Open Research Online