Dundee has connections with literary greats across the world – from authors born here, to people who studied or lived in the city.
If you want a flavour of Dundee’s influence on literature, try taking a walk on Broughty Ferry Beach, and watch the waves crash into the shore. As we reported in another podcast, that’s what Mary Shelley did in 1812, and from that exhilarating experience, she drew the inspiration for the monstrous creation at the centre of her great gothic horror novel Frankenstein.
Dundee has connections with literary greats across the world – from authors born here, to people who studied or lived in the city. The University has recognized the contribution of these and others through the conferral of honorary degrees or invitations to speak at one of the many literary events hosted by the University of Dundee.
Writers to earn acclaim during the last fifty years include AL Kennedy, who grew up in the city. She is the winner of the Costa Prize, Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year award, Scottish Arts Council Book Award and countless others. Her writing includes novels, short stories and non-fiction including What Becomes, Everything You Need and Day.
Kate Atkinson, famed for her Jackson Brodie novels, wrote Emotionally Weird about an English department at the University of Dundee – entirely fictional, of course. Today the University's creative writing programme is run by esteemed author, Professor Kirsty Gunn.
Rosamunde Pilcher, author of many romantic novels and works of fiction, though born in Cornwall, has lived much of her life in the Dundee area. With 28 novels and worldwide sales in excess of 60 million under her belt, she received an honorary degree from the university in 2010.
Neil Forsyth, the man behind the eccentric Bob Servant books, radio dramas and the recent successful TV series was born here.
The University has also conferred honorary graduateship on many other literary figures – writers from Roddy Doyle to Richard Holloway have donned the cap and cloak to accept the prestigious honour.
The Saturday Evening Lecture Series has been running for over 90 years and invites people to switch off their television and come and hear an expert speak on their favourite topic. The lectures regularly attract more than 600 people, and writers who have recently appeared include Sir Robert Winston, Chinese author Jung Chang and journalist and historian Max Hastings.
Compared to the Saturday Evening Lecture Series, the Dundee Literary Festival, which is produced and hosted by the University of Dundee, began relatively recently in 2007, with appearances from Philip Pullman – the author of the Northern Lights trilogy - and Jacqueline Wilson. Jaqueline has historic connections to the city too, – the famous Jackie magazine for girls, published by DC Thomson, was named after her!
In the subsequent ten years, the festival has grown and developed, and now welcomes thousands of audience members each year with appearances from writers as diverse as Nick Cave, Vivienne Westwood, William Boyd and Val McDermid.
Each year, during the festival, the winner of The Dundee International Book Prize is announced. This prize has been running for more than a decade and offers the chance for an unpublished writer to see their work in print and win a substantial cash prize.
Future Kate Atkinsons and AL Kennedys may yet emerge from the ranks of Dundee International Book Prize winners, and it’s through such enterprises the University and the city continues to champion new voices and exciting writing. In the last 50 years, Dundee University has helped to shape the literary landscape for readers and writers alike.