Baylor University

Armstrong Browning Library Director is a World Traveler

Dec. 3, 2003

By Alan Hunt


Stephen Prickett

Dr. Prickett counts walking, skiing, and tennis among his hobbies and admits that he is "drawn to the natural world" and dislikes big cities. His walking exploits are impressive: In 1999, he spent five days walking through the Borneo rain forest and later that year he spent a month crossing Australia's Great Victoria Desert on foot, sleeping on the ground without tents in sub-zero temperatures. He says he hopes to add the Big Bend experience to his walking tally.

"Texas, which is about the size of France, offers so many dramatic types of scenery," Dr. Prickett said. "I look forward to seeing them all."

Dr. Prickett came to Baylor University after serving as the Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and as a visiting scholar at Duke University. He said his love of travel stems from "a desire to understand the world I live in -- in all its complexity. Coupled with this has always been an equally strong desire to teach."

Born in Sierra Leone to Methodist missionaries, Dr. Prickett holds dual British and Australian citizenship. He was educated in Canterbury, England, and received degrees from Cambridge and Oxford universities before going to teach in Nigeria from 1963-65. He completed his PhD at Cambridge University in 1968 and taught at the University of Sussex, England, for 15 years before his appointment as the chair of the English department at the Australian National University in Canberra, where he taught from 1983-89.

Dr. Prickett held The Regius Chair of English Language and Literature at Glasgow University from 1990 to 2001. He said The Regius Chair is reputed to be the oldest established professorship of English in the world, and noted that his predecessors included A.C. Bradley and Sir Walter Raleigh.

A widely traveled scholar, Dr. Prickett has visited and lectured in numerous countries around the world, including most of the European nations. His wife, Patricia, holds dual British/American citizenship. Dr. Prickett said she was born in upstate New York and left the United States with her parents when she was 7 years old to live in Europe.

"She attended 11 schools in six countries in 12 years," he said.

Dr. Prickett, who succeeded another British citizen, Dr. Mairi Rennie, as ABL director, said he is excited about his position at the Library, which he describes as "an amazing" resource.

"I hope to develop it into one of the best Victorian libraries anywhere," he said. "The Browning collection is outstanding, and I would like to see the Victorian holdings as a whole increase. I would like to make it a major resource for 19th century British studies."

Dr. Prickett has published one novel, nine monographs, seven edited volumes and more than 80 articles on Romanticism, Victorian studies and related topics, especially literature and theology. His latest academic book, Narrative, Science and Religion: Fundamentalism Versus Irony 1700-1999, was published by Cambridge University Press in May 2002. He also is co-author of the volume on the Bible for the Cambridge University Press Landmarks of World Literature Series, and is co-editor of the Oxford University Press World's Classics Bible and of Blackwell's Reader in Literature and Religion. He also has participated in various radio programs broadcast on BBC, Australia Broadcasting Corporation, and Radio Belgrade.

Dr. Prickett has received a number of honors and awards during his 45-year academic career, and in 2002 he received a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) from the University of Arras, France. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the Society for Values in Higher Education (USA), and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

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