Award-winning author Mary Talbot, a former Lancaster University student, patron and one of the founders of the popular Lakes International Comic Art Festival, has returned to Lancaster to take up a role focusing on the dynamics and benefits of comics storytelling.
Professor Talbot, who has now taken up her role as the new Visiting Professor of Graphic Writing in Lancaster University’s Department of English Literature and Creative Writing, made headlines when she was the first graphic novelist to win the Costa Biography Award in 2012 for Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, published by Jonathan Cape, working with her husband Bryan Talbot.
Already an internationally acclaimed academic, who has published widely on language, gender and power, this was her first graphic novel.
In her new role at Lancaster University, Professor Talbot will contribute to the teaching of the department, and offer public events, including her inaugural lecture in January 2022.
She will focus on comics storytelling as a tool to present difficult subjects in an exciting and inclusive way.
Professor Talbot has held academic posts in higher education for more than 25 years, mostly in England, but also in Wales and Denmark. In 2004 she was invited as Visiting Professor to Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China.
She has undertaken extensive consultancy work, including for the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Quality Assurance Agency.
Wigan-born Professor Talbot married Bryan and moved to Preston in 1972, where they brought up two sons. She studied English Literature and Linguistics at Preston Polytechnic as a mature student, graduating in 1982 with a first-class BA in Combined Studies.
She later went on to study at Lancaster University, completing with a PhD on Critical Discourse Analysis in 1990.
Employment as Reader in Language and Culture took her to Sunderland in 1997. She still lives in Sunderland, but has been a freelance writer since 2009.
Most recently, her poem ‘Seasons’, commissioned by Bettina Carpi, was used for a poetry and dance performance in the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University, on 4th November, Company Carpi: When You Light a Candle, You Also Cast a Shadow.
She is currently working on a graphic novel with Bryan about Leonora Carrington, the Lancashire-born surrealist, which will be published by independent publisher SelfMadeHero.
Professor Talbot is also a founder patron of the popular Lakes International Comic Art Festival, with which Lancaster University has a close working relationship. The festival has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
‘I’m delighted that Lancaster University has appointed me to this role,” said Professor Talbot. “It’s an honour and a firm endorsement of the legitimacy of graphic novels and their academic significance.
“I’m looking forward to exploring the form in English and Creative Writing and beyond, with a particular focus on what’s distinctive about comics storytelling and its potential for conveying complexities in an engaging and accessible way.”
Department Head Professor Sharon Ruston said: “We look forward to working with Professor Talbot and growing our research and teaching in this area.”
Professor Talbot succeeds Benoit Peeters. Her work brings a different dimension to the role as she writes mainly historical/ biographical texts using fictional characters to explore social and political issues rather than the European comics tradition involving imaginary worlds/cities.
As well as being one of the top departments in the country, Lancaster University’s Department of English Literature and Creative Writing is committed to principles of equality, diversity and inclusion, their work recognised by the Athena SWAN charter for gender equality and has a staff that comprises several well-known published academics, writers and poets.
Part personal history, part biography, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes contrasts two coming-of-age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton. Social expectations and gender politics, thwarted ambitions and personal tragedy are played out against two contrasting historical backgrounds, poignantly evoked by the atmospheric visual storytelling of award winning comic artist and graphic novel pioneer Bryan Talbot.
Produced through an intense collaboration seldom seen between writers and artists, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes is intelligent, funny and sad – a fine addition to the evolving genre of graphic memoir.