10 years of English at Edinburgh Napier

Department celebrates milestone as it looks ahead to further successes

Date posted

6 October 2017


Last updated

15 December 2020

It is often said that Edinburgh is a city built on words and books. The world-famous International Book Festival is held every August. McCall Smith, Rankin, Rowling, Banks and Welsh are household names. A plethora of other renowned novelists, poets and storytellers call the city their home.

And for the last 10 years, Edinburgh Napier has been at the heart of the literature city through its dedicated – and ever successful – English suite of courses.

Opening in 2007, just as JK Rowling unveiled the last instalment of the Harry Potter series to the world, Merchiston campus welcomed its first English student through its doors.

Spearheaded by Professor of English Literature Linda Dryden, the creation of the department was in reaction to the city only having one option to study English - despite it being a UNESCO City of Literature and home to four universities.

It originally comprised of four joint degrees but following student feedback, this was streamlined to what it stands as today – a single honours English degree, English and Film and Acting and English.

However, Professor Dryden was not content on the University’s offering being a carbon copy of other English courses. English at Edinburgh Napier is unique in that it focuses on the relevance of literature to the modern world.

From Shakespeare and poetry from the Romantic age, to Scottish, Irish and American literature, science fiction and gothic tradition in literature, the course aims to develop a broad knowledge of the relationships between literature, culture and life as we know it today.

This aim is supported by the department’s research activity. Through its Centre for Literature and Writing (CLAW), it has implemented Robert Louis Stevenson Day – an annual date on Edinburgh’s literary calendar when the life, loves and works of one of the most famous writers from the city is celebrated.

Other themes include the Age of Frankenstein, Victorian crime, the war poets and modern terror. Academics from the department have also contributed to a new series of HG Wells books after copyright protection of the celebrated writer’s work lapsed.

For Professor Dryden, the last 10 years are a time that she looks back on with great pride.

She said: “In the past 10 years, the subject area has become one of the strongest in the University, both in terms of teach and research. We have routinely achieved impressive ratings in the National Student Survey, one year even achieving 100% satisfaction.

“The most recent Research Excellence Framework in 2014 gave research in English 64% at 3* and 4*, an impressive achievement by anyone’s standards.

“I am extremely proud of the staff and students that I have worked with over the years, and given what has been achieved in our first decade, I can only imagine that English will continue to go from strength to strength over the next 10 years.”

These sentiments are echoed by Kate Simpson, a current PhD student within the department at Edinburgh Napier.

She said: “It is the department’s youth which is one of its primary attractions, it does not feel like anything is out of reach and being a student within the department allows you to become part of that dynamism.

“From establishing Robert Louis Stevenson Day, to becoming internationally renowned for Gothic studies through events such as Age of Frankenstein, the Edinburgh Napier English department has an infectious enthusiasm for knowledge.”

Tonight (Friday 6 October), 10 years of the English department will be celebrated at Merchiston with a special reading from author Louise Welsh. Louise is the author of eight novels including The Cutting Room, Way to Burn and Death is a Welcome Guest. She is an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Edinburgh Napier University.

To attend, register your interest here.

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