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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


Surrealists in the Storm: David Gascoyne, Spain and Mass Observation (2012-02)
Fraser, Robert
Times Literary Supplement(5679) (14 -15)

Riddling soul: John Donne, Theatrical Performer of His Various Selves and Maker of an Oddly Modern Music (2011-08-05)
Fraser, Robert
Times Literary Supplement(5653) (pp. 3-4)

Race and religion in the Victorian age: Charles Kingsley, Governor Eyre and the Morant Bay Rising (2011-04)
Fraser, Robert
The Victorian Web

Far removed (2010-11-05)
Fraser, Robert
Times Literary Supplement(5614) (pp. 29-29)

Bugger the skylarks: Lawrence and Mansfield at war: a battle in ten scenes (2010)
Fraser, Robert
Katherine Mansfield Studies, 2(1) (pp. 100-163)

Fiction and the other reader: the reception of imperial adventure romance in Africa (2010)
Fraser, Robert
Angles on the English-Speaking World, 10, (99 -107)

Mere Idle Calumnies: How Sir James Frazer's anthopological open-mindedness was misappropriated to support a Blood Libel - and how he responded (2009-04-10)
Fraser, Robert
Times Literary Supplement (pp. 13-15)

Letters of J.G.Frazer (2007-04)
Fraser, Robert
The Classical Review, 57 (New Se(1) (pp. 243-245)

War and the colonial book trade: the case of OUP India (2005)
Fraser, Robert
Script and Print: Bulletin of the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand, 29 (pp. 93-104)

"Have fair fallen": Gerard Manley Hopkins and Henry Purcell (2004)
Fraser, Robert
The London Magazine(April-May) (pp. 58-66)

Proust's Cup of Tea: Homoeroticism and Victorian Culture (2004)
Fraser, Robert
Victorian Studies, 46(2 [Winter]) (pp. 370-372)

Write disobediently (2004)
Fraser, Robert
The London Magazine(August-Sep) (pp. 116-120)

Songs of a Tadpole (2003-08-20)
Fraser, Robert
Times Literary Supplement (pp. 20-20)

"Whatever is, is right": Handel's penultimate oratorio and the pity of war (2003-01-17)
Fraser, Robert
Times Literary Supplement(5207) (pp. 13-14)

Mapping the Mind: Borders, Migration and Myth (2003)
Fraser, Robert
Wasafiri(39) (pp. 47-54)

"Is there a Gibbon in the house?": Migration, Postcoloniality and the Fall and Rise of Europe (2002)
Fraser, Robert
Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Studies, 2(2) (pp. 102-114)

Hume, Sir James Frazer, Irony and Belief (2002)
Fraser, Robert
The Edinburgh Review, 110(1) (pp. 48-55)

"Not that fair field of Enna": Milton, Ruskin and Protestant Longing (2001)
Fraser, Robert
The Long Poem Newsletter(10) (pp. 3-4)

Lonely Londoners 1890's style: Joseph Casely-Hayford's Ethiopia Unbound (2001)
Fraser, Robert
Wasafiri, 34 (52 -55)

Postcolonial Cities: Michael Ondaatje's Toronto and Yvonne Vera's Bulawayo (2001)
Fraser, Robert
Studies in Canadian Literature/ Etudes en litterature canadienne, 26(2) (pp. 40-48)

The loneliness of the long-distance cyclist: cyclic form in Frazer and Proust (1996)
Fraser, Robert
Yearbook of English Studies, 26 (pp. 163-172)

Night Thoughts: The Surreal Life of the Poet David Gascoyne (2012-02-16)
Fraser, Robert
ISBN : 9780199558148 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK

Book History Through Postcolonial Eyes: Rewriting the Script (2008-07)
Fraser, Robert
ISBN : 978-0-415-40294-1 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London, UK

The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker. Paperback edition [revised] (2002-11-07)
Fraser, Robert
ISBN : 9780712691710 | Publisher : Pimlico | Published : London, UK

Ben Okri: Towards the Invisible City (2002)
Fraser, Robert
Writers and their work
ISBN : 746309937 | Publisher : Northcote House | Published : Tavistock, UK

The chameleon poet: a life of George Barker (2001)
Fraser, Robert
ISBN : 224062425 | Publisher : Jonathan Cape | Published : London, UK

Press Books Abroad (2013-11-14)
Fraser, Robert
In: Eliot, Simon ed. The History of Oxford University Press
ISBN : 9780199543151 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK

Educational books (2013-11-14)
Fraser, Robert
In: Louis, William Roger ed. The History of the Oxford University Press
ISBN : 9780199568406 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK

Kariba's last stand (2012-05)
Fraser, Robert
In: Cairnie, Julie and Pucherova, Dobrota eds. Moving Spirit: The Legacy of Dambudzo Marechera in the 21st Century (pp. 39-50)
ISBN : 9783643902153 | Publisher : Lit Verlag | Published : Zurich

Leonard Bast's library: aspiration, emulation, and the imperial national tradition (2011-02-18)
Fraser, R.
In: Spiers, John ed. Nationalisms and the National Canon. The culture of the publisher's series (2) (pp. 116-133)
ISBN : 9780230284036 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke, U.K.

Towards A new world order: literacy, democracy and literature in India and Africa, 1930-1965 (2011)
Fraser, Robert
In: Chakravorty, Swapan and Gupta, Abhijit eds. New Word Order: Transnational Themes in Book History (pp. 53-64)
ISBN : 9788192065113 | Publisher : Worldview Publications | Published : Delhi, India

The Tiger That Pounced; The African Writers Series (1962-2003) and the Online Reader (2009)
Fraser, Robert
In: Satpathy, Sumanyu ed. Southern Postcolonialisms (30 -49)
ISBN : 978-0-415-48025-3 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Delhi, India

School readers in the Empire and the creation of postcolonial taste (2008)
Fraser, Robert
In: Fraser, Robert and Hammond, Mary eds. Books Without Borders (pp. 89-107)
ISBN : 9780230210295 | Publisher : Palgrave | Published : Basingstoke

Press, partition and famine: Benedict Anderson and the Bengal Emergency of 1905-6 (2007)
Fraser, Robert
In: McCleery, Alistair and Brabon, Benjamin A. eds. The Influence of Benedict Anderson (pp. 59-93)
ISBN : 978-0-9553561-1-7 | Publisher : Merchiston Publishing | Published : Edinburgh, U.K.

Sir James Frazer and Marian McNeill (2007)
Fraser, Robert
In: Brown, Ian; Clancy, Thomas Owen; Manning, Susan and Pittock, Murray G. eds. The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature (pp. 69-74)
ISBN : 0 7486 2482 1 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh

George Barker's Sonnet of Fishes (2007)
Fraser, Robert
In: Hanke, Michael ed. Fourteen English sonnets: critical essays. Studien Zur Anglistischen Literatur-und-Sprach-Wissenschaft (28) (pp. 145-157)
ISBN : 978-3-88476-904-1 | Publisher : Wissenschaftlicher Verlag | Published : Trier, Germany

Mapping the mind: borders, migration and myth (2005)
Fraser, Robert
In: Ponzanesi, Sandra and Merolla, Daniela eds. Migrant cartographies: new cultural and literary spaces in post-colonial Europe (pp. 55-66)
ISBN : 739107550 | Publisher : Lexington Books | Published : Oxford, UK

Frantz Fanon (2005)
Fraser, Robert
In: Poddar, Prem and Johnson, David eds. A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures in English (pp. 152-154)
ISBN : 0 7486 1855 4 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh

Nineteenth-century adventure and fantasy: James Morier, George Meredith, Lewis Carroll and Robert Louis Stevenson (2004-09)
Fraser, Robert
In: Saunders, Corrine ed. A Companion to Romance: from Classical to Contemporary. Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture (pp. 389-406)
ISBN : 9780631232711 | Publisher : Blackwell | Published : Oxford, UK

Marina Warner with Robert Fraser (2004)
Fraser, Robert
In: Nasta, Susheila ed. Writing Across Worlds: Contemporary Writers Talk (pp. 365-376)
ISBN : 0-415-34566-9 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York

George Granville Barker (1913-1991) (2004)
Fraser, Robert
In: Harrison, Brian ed. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (pp. 373-374)
ISBN : 0-19-861353-9 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

New York (2003)
Fraser, Robert
In: Speake, Jennifer ed. Literature of Travel and Exploration (pp. 846-848)
ISBN : 9781579582470 | Publisher : Fitzroy Dearbourn/Routledge | Published : New York and London

Mungo Park (2003)
Fraser, Robert
In: Speake, Jennifer ed. Literature of Travel and Exploration (pp. 924-926)
ISBN : 9781579582470 | Publisher : Fitzroy Dearbourn/Routledge | Published : New York and London

Sahel (2003)
Fraser, Robert
In: Speake, Jennifer ed. Literature of Travel and Exploration (pp. 1044-1046)
ISBN : 9781579582470 | Publisher : Fitzroy Dearbourn/Routledge | Published : New York and London

Timbuctoo (2003)
Fraser, Robert
In: Speake, Jennifer ed. LIterature of Travel and Exploration (pp. 1181-1183)
ISBN : 9781579582470 | Publisher : Fitzroy Dearbourn/Routledge | Published : New York and London

The Lamp of Truth: Proust and George Eliot (2003)
Fraser, Robert
In: Bloom, Harold ed. Marcel Proust. Modern Critical Views (pp. 37-62)
ISBN : 791076598 | Publisher : Chelsea House Publishers | Published : Philadelphia, USA

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) (2002)
Fraser, Robert
In: Clark, Robert and Todd, Janet eds. The Literay Encycopaedia and Dictionary
Publisher : The Literary Dictionary | Published : London

Sir James Frazer (1854-1941) (2002)
Fraser, Robert
In: Clark, Robert and Todd, Janet eds. The Literary Encyclopaedia and Dictionary
Publisher : The LIterary Dictionary | Published : London, UK

George Barker (1913-1991) (2002)
Fraser, Robert
In: Clark, Robert and Todd, Janet eds. The Literay Encyclopaedia and Dictionary
Publisher : The Literary Dictionary | Published : London

Ben Okri (1959-) (2002)
Fraser, Robert
In: Clark, Robert and Todd, Janet eds. The Literary Encyclopaedia and Dictionary
Publisher : The Literary Dictionary | Published : London

La Rama Dorada: Magia y religion (2011)
Fraser, Robert ed.
Seccion de Obras de Antropologica
ISBN : 9786071606464 | Publisher : Fondo de Cultura Economica | Published : Mexico

Books Without Borders, Volume 1: The Cross-national Dimension in Print Culture (2008-07-31)
Fraser, Robert and Hammond, Mary eds.
ISBN : 9780230210295 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Houndmills, Basingstoke, U.K.

Books Without Borders, Volume Two: Perspectives from South Asia (2008-07-10)
Fraser, Robert and Hammond, Mary eds.
ISBN : 9780230210332 | Publisher : Palgrave | Published : Basingstoke

Special Issue of Wasafiri: The Book in the World (2007-10)
Nasta, Susheila and Fraser, Robert
Routledge, Abingdon.