Baylor Names New Head Of Armstrong Browning Library

April 7, 2003

by Alan Hunt

Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan Jr. has announced the appointment of Dr. Stephen Prickett, Regius Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and a visiting scholar at Duke University, as the new director of Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library. Prickett and his wife, Patricia, plan to relocate to Texas in time for him to start his new job Aug. 1.

Prickett succeeds Dr. Mairi Rennie, who retired after six years as director of the library, which houses the world's largest collection of memorabilia relating to Victorian poets Robert Browning and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. An internationally known Browning authority and scholar, Rennie returned to her native England last August.

Prickett was born in Sierra Leone, the son of Methodist missionaries, and was educated in Canterbury, England. He received degrees from Cambridge and Oxford universities, then taught in Nigeria from 1963-65. He completed his doctorate 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.

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

His other posts include visiting professorships at Smith College, the University of Minnesota, Aarhus University, Denmark, and the National University of Singapore. Prickett is a former chairman of the U.K. Higher Education Foundation, former president of the European Society for the Study of Literature and Theology, and president of the George MacDonald Society.

Prickett will be "a major asset" to the doctoral program in religion and literature at Baylor, said Dr. David L. Jeffrey, distinguished professor and provost-elect. "Dr. Prickett is one of the English-speaking world's most eminent scholars to have contributed to a deeper understanding of the role of Christian theology and religious practice in western literature."

Dr. Reagan M. Ramsower, dean of libraries, described Prickett as uniquely qualified to lead Baylor's efforts in developing the Browning collection and "focusing the world's attention on this tremendous scholarly resource" housed at Baylor. "Under his leadership, I know the wonderful work of the past directors of the world-renowned Armstrong Browning Library will be preserved, and that new ground will be plowed to plant seeds for future generations of Browning and Victorian scholars and enthusiasts," Ramsower said.

Prickett has published one novel, nine monographs, seven edited volumes and more than 80 articles on Romanticism, Victorian studies and related topics, especially on 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 joint author of the volume on the Bible for the Cambridge University Press "Landmarks of World Literature Series," and joint editor of the Oxford University Press "World's Classics Bible" and of the "Blackwell's Reader in Literature and Religion." He also has participated in various radio programs broadcast on BBC, Australia Broadcasting Corp., and Radio Belgrade. A member of Edinburgh Episcopal Cathedral, he describes his religious affiliation as Methodist/Anglican.

The holder of dual British and Australian citizenship, Prickett is widely traveled, having visited and lectured in numerous countries around the world. Admitting a dislike of big cities, he said he is "drawn to the natural world...and seems to find uncomfortable ways of traveling." In 1999, for example, he walked, with guides, for five days through the Borneo rainforest, sleeping in the open at night. Later that year, he crossed the Great Victoria Desert in South Australia on foot with 11 other people and 16 camels, sleeping on the ground without tents in sub-zero temperatures.

Prickett has received a number of honors and awards during his 45-year academic career, including a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) last year 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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