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Professor Robert Fraser


Robert Fraser in Rome

Profile summary

Professional biography

Robert Fraser is a biographer and critic, dramatist and historian of ideas. He has published on Marcel Proust (Proust and the Victorians, 1994), Victorian Quest Romance (for the Writers and Their Work Series, 1998) and Ben Okri (Ben Okri: Towards the Invisible City, 2002). The Making of the Golden Bough, his study of the genesis of Sir James Frazer’s anthropological classic, has been re-issued as an additional volume to the grand thirteen volume set of Sir James’s work. The Chameleon Poet, his biography of the British poet George Barker, was released by Jonathan Cape in February 2002 and was chosen as Spectator book for that year. Night Thoughts, his life of the poet David Gascoyne (1916-2001), was issued by the Oxford University Press in the Spring of 2012, when it was placed top of the Independent's chart of ten best new biographies.

A member of the university’s Literature and Music Research Group, Professor Fraser’s articles on Purcell and Handel have appeared in The London Magazine and The Times Literary Supplement. His books on postcolonial literature, on which he has published extensively, include the first ever monograph on the Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah (Heinemann, 1980); the standard history of West African Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 1986), and a methodological study entitled Lifting the Sentence; A Poetics of Postcolonial Fiction (Manchester University Press, 2000).

His works for the theatre include a translation and acting text of Domenico Cimarosa’s opera Il pittor parigino, and bio-dramas depicting the lives of Byron, Dr Samuel Johnson, Katherine Mansfield, D.H.Lawrence, and the composer Carlo Gesualdo.

Robert Fraser did his undergraduate studies in English at the University of Sussex with David Daiches and Tony Nuttall. He wrote his doctorate at Royal Holloway, University of London on ideas of tradition in English verse, while simultaneously studying Harmony, Counterpoint and Composition at Morley College, London under Melanie Daiken and James Iliff. 

Research interests

Among Robert Fraser's publications in print history are several outputs of the ongoing project on the Colonial and Postcolonial History of the Book including the monograph Book History Through Postcolonial Eyes: Re-Writing the Script (Routledge, 2008) and two volumes of essays co-edited with Dr Mary Hammond of Southampton University, jointly entitled Books Without Borders (Palgrave, 2008). For three years from January 2013 Robert collaborated with Professor David Rowland of the OU's Music Department, and a team of colleagues drawn from the Royal College of Music in London, on the AHRC-funded Listening Experience Database, of which he remains an Honorary Research Associate. Professor Fraser is a Visiting Professor at Abdelmalek Essâdi University in Morocco, and delivered the annual Breslauer lecture in Information Science at UCLA and Harvard in April, 2014. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society in 2005, of the Royal Society of Literature in 2007, and of the English Association in 2013.

Follow this link for a sampling of recent work.

See  Open Research Online for further details of Robert Fraser’s research publications.

Teaching interests

Before coming to the Open University in 1999, Robert Fraser taught at the universities of Leeds and London, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was Director of Studies in English. He has also taught abroad: in West Africa, in Latin America and the Middle East. He has since written for a wide range of courses: Europe: Cultural Identities in a Contested Continent (AA300); Postcolonial Literatures in English: Readings and Interpretations (A430); Creative Writing (A215) and Words and Music (AA317). He has written about Blake and Anouilh for the MA module A815, on Voltaire for A230 Reading and Studying Literature, and on Tennyson, T.S. Eliot and Italo Calvino for A335 Literature in transition: from 1800 to the present.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Book History and Bibliography Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Empire and Postcolonial Studies Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Literature and Music Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts