New role of visiting professor of Graphic Writing for former Lancaster University student

A former Lancaster University student and founder of a popular national comic arts festival returns to the city to take up a role focusing on the dynamics and benefits of comics storytelling.

By Michelle Blade
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 3:45 pm
Mary Talbot is the new Visiting Professor of Graphic Writing at Lancaster University.
Mary Talbot is the new Visiting Professor of Graphic Writing at Lancaster University.

Lancaster University’s Department of English Literature and Creative Writing welcomes Mary Talbot as the new Visiting Professor of Graphic Writing.

Professor Talbot made headlines when she was the first graphic novelist to win the Costa Biography Award in 2012 for Dotter of her Father’s Eyes (Jonathan Cape, 2012).

Already an internationally acclaimed academic, who has published widely on language, gender and power, this was her first graphic novel.

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It was illustrated by her husband, Bryan Talbot, an award-winning comic artist in his own right.

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 a PhD on Critical Discourse Analysis in 1990.

Employment as a 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 November 4, Company Carpi: When You Light a Candle, You Also Cast a Shadow. She is currently working on a graphic novel about Leonora Carrington, the Lancashire-born surrealist, that will be published by independent publisher Self Made Hero.

Professor Talbot is also a founder patron of the popular Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF), 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.