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Professor Nicola J Watson

Nicola Watson recovering from Victor Hugo’s house, Paris, 2013

Profile summary

  • Professor of English Literature
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Art His, Class St, Eng&CW, Mus
  • English & Creative Writing
  • nicola.watson

Professional biography

I trained at Oxford where I specialised in the literature and culture of the period 1780-1830, studying with Jonathan Wordsworth, Marilyn Butler, and Paul Hamilton. When I was awarded the John Knox Fellowship to Harvard University in 1985, I 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.  I then returned to teach again at Oxford, before joining the Open University in 2000. 

Research interests

My research is based within the romantic period but extends backwards into the eighteenth century and forwards into the nineteenth; increasingly, I am interested in the cultural legacies of these periods as they persist within contemporary culture through the transformation, adaptation, and remediation of literary texts. I have published three monographs, two edited collections, and many essays and articles variously on the romantic novel and narrative verse, with an emphasis on Jane Austen and Walter Scott; women’s writing; travel-writing; literary tourism; romantic literary biography; the book in the romantic period; and the production of literary heritage sites and associated rituals of commemoration. Recent essays deal with Shakespeare gardens, tourism associated with Rousseau in Switzerland and Jane Austen in England. This work has been supported on a number of grants from the American Philosophical Society and the British Academy.

My current full-length project, funded by the British Academy, extends earlier work on literary tourism. Entitled The Author’s Effects, it deals with the emergence of the writer’s house museum as a genre through looking at a series of celebrated objects and the cultural meanings they have carried. If you would like to learn more, try my blog.

Looking ahead, the diary for 2016-17 includes continuing to act as convenor and chair of the Romantic Period Research Group, and as Past-President of the British Association for Romantic Studies. After the very successful conference in 2015, we are busy planning the next at York for 2017, under the theme ‘Improvement’. For more information see the BARS website. Upcoming speaking engagements include the Shakespeare Institute seminar series.


Teaching interests

Over my career I have taught literary theory, eighteenth-century fiction and poetry, detective fiction, and American literature in addition to romantic period literature and culture.  I have developed teaching material for the Open University (print, video, audio, and digital) on a wide variety of subjects: the literature and culture of the late eighteenth century and romantic period, nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, children’s literature, and travel-writing. You can see my work on the Royal Pavilion at Brighton on OpenLearn; I’ve authored other teaching material for undergraduate study on Shakespeare and tourism, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Byron, Thomas De Quincey, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, James Barrie and Daphne Du Maurier. I have chaired a number of teams responsible for the development and management of courses in production and presentation including A103 An introduction to the humanities, A207 From Enlightenment to Romanticism c.1780-1830, A230 Reading and studying literature, and A300 Twentieth-century literature.  I presently have a strong interest in new modes of teaching and learning, including short-form learning materials such as 1-minute cartoon introductions to literary theory Outside the book - OpenLearn - Open University, apps such as the Poetry Prescription Poetry Prescription - OpenLearn - Open University, and material supporting the BBC4 series The Secret Life of Books on OpenLearn The Secret Life of Books: Series Two - OpenLearn - Open University

At postgraduate level, I have supervised projects on topics ranging from Samuel Richardson, through William Blake, late eighteenth-century theatre, eighteenth-century fiction and the American wars, Charlotte Smith, mental illness and the Victorian novel, and modern children’s literature. I am particularly interested in taking on projects on the late eighteenth century and romantic period, historical fiction, travel-writing, place-writing, literary biography and afterlives, and forms of literary commemoration.

Impact and engagement

In addition to speaking at academic conferences and symposia, I regularly give public lectures. Over the last few years these have included appearances at the Stratford Shakespeare Club, Dr Johnson’s House, the Edinburgh Scott Club, the Humanities Festival at the University of Lund in Sweden; the Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschäft in Vienna; the Humanities Festival at the University of Linköping, Sweden; Chawton House Library; the Johnson Society of London; the Oxford Italian Association; the York Festival of Ideas; The Burns Birthplace.  Media appearances have included slots on Woman’s Hour, Time Team special on Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, an ‘audio postcard’ from Poet’s Corner in conversation with Andrew Motion ahead of the Royal Wedding for Radio 4’s The Sunday Programme,  a programme on Oxford’s literary sites for Radio 4’s Night Waves; and BBC4’s series The Secret Life of Books.

External collaborations

I have acted as advisor and collaborator on various large projects to do with tourism and commemoration – including ‘Burns; The Object of Memory’ based in Edinburgh and Dundee; ‘Locating Imagination’, based at Rotterdam, ‘Shakespeare: Cultures of Commemoration’ based in Mercia, Spain, and ‘Writing Britain’s Ruins’ based in Stirling. I have acted as consultant on the redisplay of Shakespeare’s New Place for 2016, and I am presently working with TRAUM on the futures of writer’s house museums in Norway.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Heritage Studies Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Romantic Period Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
The Arts and their Audiences Research ClusterClusterFaculty of Arts


Afterword: ‘Dear Shakespeare-land’: investing in Stratford (2012-07)
Watson, Nicola
Critical Survey, 24(2) (pp. 88-98)
Fandom mapped: Rousseau, Scott and Byron on the itinerary of Lady Frances Shelley (2011-04)
Watson, Nicola
Romantic Circles Praxis Series: Romantic Fandom, Article , article 2
Lady of the Lake Colloquium: The Trossachs: 23rd May 2010 (2010)
Watson, Nicola
Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club Annual Bulletin, MMX (pp. 48-51)
Shakespeare en Elizabeth: Een liefdesgeschiedenis (2002-01-01)
Dobson, Michael and Watson, Nicola
Feit und Fictie, 5(3) (pp. 62-81)
The Literary tourist: readers and places in Romantic and Victorian Britain (2006-10)
Watson, Nicola J.
ISBN : 1403999929 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke, UK
England's Elizabeth: an afterlife in fame and fantasy (2002-11-07)
Dobson, Michael and Watson, Nicola J.
ISBN : 198183771 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK
Revolution and the Form of the British Novel 1790-1825: Intercepted Letters, Interrupted Seductions (1994)
Watson, Nicola
ISBN : 978-0-19-811297-6 | Publisher : Clarendon Press | Published : Oxford
At Juliet's Tomb: Anglophone Travel-writing and Shakespeare's Verona, 1814-1914 (2016)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Bigliazzi, Silvia and Calvi, Lisanna eds. Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, and Civic Life: The Boundaries of Civic Space. Routledge Studies in Shakespeare (pp. 224-237)
ISBN : 978-1-138-83998-4 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York
Gardening with Shakespeare (2015-11)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Calvo, Clara and Kahn, Coppélia eds. Celebrating Shakespeare: Commeoration and Cultural Memory (pp. 301-329)
ISBN : 978-1-107-04277-3 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge
Rousseau on the Tourist Trail (2015-05-05)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Esterhammer, Angela; Piccitto, Diane and Vincent, Patrick eds. Romanticism, Rousseau, Switzerland: New Prospects. Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the Cultures of Print (pp. 84-100)
ISBN : 978-1-137-47585-5 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Houndmills, UK
Epistolary fiction (2015)
Watson, Nicola
In: Garside, Peter and O'Brien, Karen eds. The Oxford History of the Novel in English (pp. 370-384)
ISBN : 978-0-19-957480-3 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford
American Travel-writing and the invention of 'Story-book England' (2013)
Watson, Nicola
In: de Sousa, Alcinda Pinheiro; Flora, Luísa and Malafaia, Teresa eds. From Brazil to Macao: Travel Writing and Diasporic Spaces (pp. 57-74)
Publisher : University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies | Published : Lisbon
Exhibiting Literature. Austen Exhibited (2013)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Kroucheva, Katerina and Schaff, Barbara eds. Kafkas Gabel: Uberlegungen zum Ausstellen von Literatur (pp. 227-250)
ISBN : 978-3-8376-2258-4 | Publisher : transcript Verlag | Published : Bielefeld
Holiday excursions to Scott country (2012-12-13)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Colbert, Benjamin ed. Travel Writing and Tourism in Britain and Ireland (pp. 132-146)
ISBN : 9780230251083 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke
Afterlives (2012-09-25)
Watson, Nicola
In: Robertson, Fiona ed. The Edinburgh Companion to Sir Walter Scott. Edinburgh Companions to Scottish Literature (pp. 143-155)
ISBN : 9780748641307 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh
Holiday romances: or, Loch Katrine and the literary tourist (2012)
Watson, Nicola
In: Brown, Ian ed. Literary Tourism, the Trossachs and Walter Scott. ASLS Occasional Papers (16) (pp. 56-69)
ISBN : 978-1-908980-00-7 | Publisher : Scottish Literature International | Published : Glasgow
Sir Walter Scott: the bard of Abbotsford and the Laird of Avon (2011-03-24)
Watson, Nicola
In: Holland, Peter and Poole, Adrian eds. Great Shakespeareans Set II. Great Shakespeareans
ISBN : 9781441149237 | Publisher : Continuum | Published : Cambridge
Readers of romantic locality: tourists, Loch Katrine and 'The Lady of the Lake' (2010-06)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Labbe, Jacqueline M. and Bode, Christoph eds. Romantic Localities: Europe Writes Place (pp. 67-80)
ISBN : 9781848930025 | Publisher : Pickering & Chatto | Published : London, UK
Rambles in Literary London (2009)
Watson, Nicola
In: Watson, Nicola ed. Literary Tourism and Nineteenth-Century Culture (pp. 139-149)
ISBN : 978-0-230-22281-6 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Houndmills, Basingstoke
Shakespeare on the tourist trail (2007-06)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Shaughnessy, Robert ed. Cambridge companion to Shakespeare and popular culture. Cambridge Companions to Literature (pp. 199-226)
ISBN : 978-0-521-84429-1 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge, UK
Food and drink (2001-09-20)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Dobson, Michael and Wells, Stanley eds. The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (pp. 147-148)
ISBN : 198117353 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK
Fiction (2001-09-20)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Dobson, Michael and Wells, Stanley eds. The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (pp. 137-138)
ISBN : 198117353 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK
Elizabeth's Legacy (2001-03-01)
Watson, Nicola J and Dobson, Michael
In: Doran, Susan and Starkey, David eds. Elizabeth: The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum (pp. 255-261)
ISBN : 99286572 | Publisher : Vintage | Published : London, UK
Trans-figuring Byronic Identity (1994-01-04)
Watson, Nicola
In: Favret, Mary A and Watson, Nicola eds. At the Limits of Romanticism: Essays in Cultural, Feminist, and Materialist Criticism (pp. 185-206)
ISBN : 978-0-253-20853-8 | Publisher : Indiana University Press | Published : Bloomington, Indiana
Kemble, Scott, and the Mantle of the Bard (1991)
Watson, Nicola
In: Marsden, Jean I. ed. The Appropriation of Shakespeare: Post-Renaissance Reconstructions of the Works and the Myth (pp. 73-92)
ISBN : 0-7450-0927-1 | Publisher : Harvester Wheatsheaf | Published : New York, London etc.
Romantics and Victorians (2011-11-30)
Watson, Nicola J. and Towheed, Shafquat eds.
Reading and Studying Literature
ISBN : 9781849666237 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic | Published : London
Children's literature: Classic texts and contemporary trends (2009-08-26)
Montgomery, Heather and Watson, Nicola eds.
ISBN : 978-0-230-22714-9 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Houndmills, Basingstoke
Children's Literature: Approaches and Territories (2009-08-26)
Watson, Nicola J. and Maybin, Janet eds.
ISBN : 9780230227132 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan in association with The Open University | Published : Basingstoke, England
Literary Tourism and Nineteenth-Century Culture (2009)
Watson, Nicola J. ed.
ISBN : 978-0-230-22281-6 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Houndmills, Basingstoke
At the Limits of Romanticism: Essays in Cultural, Feminist, and Materialist Criticism (1994-04-01)
Favret, Mary A. and Watson, Nicola eds.
ISBN : 978-0-253-20853-8 | Publisher : Indiana University Press | Published : Bloomington, Indiana
The Antiquary (2002-03-21)
Scott, Walter
Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.