New Professor of Literature muses on 'curiosity'

Published: 25 January 2006 at 15:59

Writer, academic and radio broadcaster Rebecca Stott has given an inaugural address at Anglia Ruskin University's Cambridge campus on the theme of curiosity to mark her appointment of Professor of Literature.

Professor Stott, of the Department of English, Communications, Film and Media Department at the University, is a historian of nineteenth-century literature who has published several books on authors from Charles Darwin to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Lord Tennyson.

The lecture, entitled 'On Curiosity', introduced by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences Professor Monika Pruetzel-Thomas, was illustrated by pictures and extracts from novels, fables, plays and poetry from the seventeenth century to the present. It showed how literature has shaped our ideas and judgements about the nature of curiosity and its consequences.

Professor Stott said:

“I am immensely proud to have been appointed to the position of Professor of Literature at Anglia Ruskin University, particularly at a time when so few professors - only 16% - are women."

Professor Stott's inaugural lecture was based on a wealth of material which stretched across several centuries and disciplines. It included research on 17th-century cabinets of curiosities, George Eliot, John Ruskin, Charles Dickens, Bluebeard, Faust and, of course, that great heroine of curiosity, Alice of Alice in Wonderland. As a tribute to the increasingly academic achievements of women and girls, Professor Stott dedicated her lecture to her two daughters Hannah Morrish (12) and Kezia Morrish (10) who were both in attendance at the event. 

Professor Stotts most recent books include Tennyson (Longmans 1996), Darwin and the Barnacle (Faber 2003), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Longmans 2003), Theatres of Glass: The Woman who Brought the Sea to the City (Short Books 2003) and Oyster (Reaktion, 2005). Professor Stott has a novel coming out next year with Weidenfeld and Nicholson called Ghostwalk, a literary thriller about Isaac Newton set in Cambridge in the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries and a historical account of the history of evolutionary ideas before Darwin called Speculators: Poets and Philosophers of Evolution.