Five Questions: Nicola J. Watson on The Author’s Effects: On Writer’s House Museums

By Matthew Sangster

Nicola J. Watson is Professor of English Literature at the Open University, a former president of BARS (2011-2015) and the co-ordinator of the European Romanticisms in Association (ERA) initiative. She has published in a formidable array of areas, including the revolutionary contexts of the Romantic novel; the limits of Romanticism; Walter Scott; Shakespeare; the afterlives of Elizabethan England; exhibiting literature; and literary tourism. Her most recent monograph, The Author’s Effects: On Writer’s House Museums, which we discuss below, was published by Oxford University Press in January 2020.

1) How did you first become interested in writer’s house museums?

I first got interested in writer’s house museums when I was writing about the emergence of literary tourism in late eighteenth-century Britain for The Literary Tourist. The writer’s house museum proper, in the sense of a house previously occupied by an author that is now shown to the ticketed public, first comes officially into being with the purchase of Shakespeare’s Birthplace for the nation in 1847. But when I was writing an essay commissioned for the Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Popular Culture on Shakespeare and tourism, it became obvious that the idea of visiting …read more