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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
  • nicola.watson

Professional biography

I trained at Oxford in the literature and culture of the Romantic period, studying with Jonathan Wordsworth, Marilyn Butler, and Paul Hamilton. In 1985, I took up a Frank Knox Fellowship to Harvard University and spent four years there, before moving to Northwestern University, Chicago. Ten years later, I came back to Oxford, before joining the Open University in 1999. 

Research interests

My research interests are based within the Romantic period but extend backwards into the eighteenth century and forwards into the nineteenth. In addition to an edition of Scott's Antiquary, two edited collections of essays, and many essays and articles, I have published three books. My first, Revolution and the Form of the British Novel 1790-1820 (OUP, 1994), dealt with the politics of novel-form in the period. England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (OUP, 2002), my second book, was co-authored with Professor Michael Dobson and was a study of the afterlives of Elizabeth I in history, biography, fiction, poetry, drama, opera, film,and other media. My third monograph, The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain (Palgrave, 2006) investigated the history of the phenomenon of literary tourism.  Recent essays have dealt with the history of the 'Shakespeare garden', the emergence of 'Juliet's tomb' as a tourist destination, and the development of tourism associated with Rousseau and Jane Austen. My current full-length project, which I have just finished up, is entitled The Author’s Effects: A Cultural Poetics of the Writer's House Museum. The book deals with the emergence of the writer’s house museum as a genre through looking at a series of celebrated objects in writer's house museums and the cultural meanings they have carried over their lifetimes. If you would like to learn more about The Literary Tourist and The Author's Effects, please visit my research blog. I have also been increasingly working on the digital futures of writer's house museums; for one online exhibition devised recently for the Birthplace Trust, see 'Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage' at Trust

Looking ahead, the diary for 2018-19 includes continuing to act as Past-President of BARS (British Association for Romantic Studies) and Association Co-ordinator for ERA (European Romanticisms in Association), a pan-European association of scholarly institutions and heritage institutions devoted to the arts and culture of the Romantic period which we founded and launched at a meeting in Rome in late 2016. This association is devoted to running a series of European events distinguished by collaboration with local museums, galleries and archives; our first event was held at Chawton House Library and focussed on Jane Austen and Germaine de Stael to mark the joint anniversary of thir deaths; the next will be on Frankenstein and will be held at Bologna in September 2018. From 1 September 2018, we will be up and running with the newly AHRC-funded project on which I am PI, Dreaming Romantic Europe. We will be holding our first workshop, 'Consuming Romanticism', at the Maison de Chateaubriand, just outside Paris, in November 2018. Meanwhile, work on the associated online exhibition REVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) continues; we now have 12 virtual exhibits on display andmany more forthcoming. For more on ERA and REVE go to

Recent speaking engagements have included the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University; upcoming invitations include King's College, London, the University of Gottingen, and the University of Oslo.


Teaching interests

Over my career at the OU I have developed undergraduate teaching material for the Open University (print, video, audio, and digital, automated) 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; I am presently developing teaching material on the literary fairy tale from Giambattista Basile via Charles Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy and Hans Christian Andersen, through to Anne Sexton and Angela Carter.  I’ve authored other material for undergraduate study on Shakespeare and tourism, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Byron, Thomas de Quincey, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, Louisa M. Alcott, J.M. Barrie and Daphne du Maurier. You can see  some of my work on the Royal Pavilion at Brighton on OpenLearn.

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 online teaching and learning, inventing 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 welcome approaches from students interested in 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 regularly speaking by invitation at academic conferences and symposia, I frequently give public lectures: 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; and most recently in association with the Being Human Festival 2017.  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. 

Upcoming engagements include the restaging of an installation based on my research first shown at the York Festival of Ideas 2016 for MK Lit Fest 2018, and the devising of an event for the Cowper-Newton Museum at Olney.


External collaborations

I have acted as advisor and collaborator on a number of  large funded 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 Murcia, 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 on the upcoming redecelopment of Anne Hathaway's Cottage, and I am presently working with TRAUM on the futures of writer’s house museums in Norway.

My present large-scale collaboration is on the AHRC-funded Dreaming Romantic Europe (Co-I Prof Catriona Seth, All Souls, Oxford) which brings together scholarly associations and heritage organizations from across Europe to collaborate in the making of REVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition), which will eventually become a fully-searchable virtual museum and developed pedagogical resource. See:


[Book Review] Transatlantic Literature and Author Love in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Paul Westover and Ann Wierda Rowland (2018)
Watson, Nicola J.
Victorian Studies, 60(4) (pp. 666-668)
Afterword: ‘Dear Shakespeare-land’: investing in Stratford (2012-07)
Watson, N. J.
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 Author’s Effects: On the Writer’s House Museum (2020)
Watson, N. J.
Publisher : Oxford University Press (In Press) | Published : Oxford, New York
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 (2016-10-06)
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 (2015-11-30)
Watson, Nicola J.
In: Calvo, Clara and Kahn, Coppélia eds. Celebrating Shakespeare: Commemoration 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 : Houndsmills
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
Museum practice and heritage (2010)
Benton, Tim and Watson, Nicola
In: West, Susie ed. Understanding Heritage in Practice (pp. 127-165)
ISBN : 978-0-7190-8154-5 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester
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.