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School of English and Drama

Notable Alumni


Crash, by J. G. Ballard

The writer JG Ballard (1930-2009) enrolled on an English Literature degree at Queen Mary College in 1951. Ballard was an acclaimed writer of novels and short stories, and his most notable works include the controversial Crash (1973) and the semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun (1984), both of which were turned into films directed by David Cronenberg and Steven Spielberg respectively.

Sir Malcolm Bradbury (1932-2000), the author, academic, television scriptwriter, and literary critic, took an MA in English in 1955. His novels include The History Man and Rates of Exchange which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His television adaptations of novels included Tom Sharpe's Porterhouse Blue, Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm, and Kingsley Amis's The Green Man.

The author and critic Eva Figes, née Unger (1932-2012), graduated with a BA honours degree in English in 1953. Figes published her first novel, Equinox, in 1966, and published a further thirteen works of fiction, as well as critical works and memoirs. 

The stage and screen actor Raj Ghatak took a BA in English and Drama at Queen Mary. Raj's film and TV credits include appearances in Starter for 10, Charlie Brooker's Dead Set, and BBC's Doctors. On stage he has appeared in Bombay Dreams (playing Sweetie) and West Side Story (playing Chino).

The author Conn Iggulden studied English at university and went on to teach for several years. He is best known for writing historical fiction, including the Emperor series of novels about Julius Caesar. He also co-wrote The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Oscar and BAFTA Award winning screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala CBE (1927-2013), completed her English Literature degree at Queen Mary in 1961. She was best known for her work on the Merchant Ivory films A Room with a View and Howard’s End, but she also produced critically acclaimed fiction, including the novel Heat and Dust which won the 1975 Man Booker prize.

The BAFTA-winning Amazing World of Gumball

BAFTA Award winning comedy writer, James Lamont, graduated from Queen Mary with a BA in English and Drama in 2003. James has written for film and for television programmes including The Amazing World of Gumball, 10 o'Clock Live, and the Armstrong and Miller Show. You can read a short interview with James here.

Dr Eleanor Updale, the author of the Montmorency series of historical novels, completed her MRes (2003) and PhD (2007) research at Queen Mary. She has written several novels, numerous short stories, and has won several awards for her writing. Eleanor is a trustee of the charity Listening Books.

Sarah Waters

Award-winning author Sarah Waters was awarded her PhD in English Literature in 1995. She has written several novels, including Tipping the Velvet (1998), Fingersmith (2003), and The Night Watch (2006). Fingersmith was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize.

The historian and author, Kate Williams, completed an MA in the Department in 1999. Her first book England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, published in 2006, was Book of the Week on Radio 4, a Book of the Year in The Times and The Independent, and shortlisted for the Marsh Prize for Biography. Her second book Becoming Queen, about the passionate youth of Queen Victoria and Princess Charlotte, was published in 2008. Kate's most recent novel, The Pleasures of Men, was published in 2012.


Andrea Levy

Honorary Fellows

Several key critical thinkers and practitioners have been made honorary fellows of the university.

The writer, Andrea Levy, became an honorary fellow of the university in 2012. Her novel, Small Island (2004), was the winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Whitbread Book of the Year award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. It was adapted for the BBC in 2009. Her most recent novel, The Long Song (2010) won the Walter Scott Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Andrea Levy's work is studied in the School, and she has made guest appearances to discuss with students her writing and the role of migrant literature in contemporary fiction.

Jean-Luc Godard's King Lear, co-scripted by Peter Sellars

Professor Patrice André Gilbert Pavis, Professor of Theatre Studies, Paris VIII University; Professor for Theatre Studies, University of Kent, was made an honorary fellow in 2005. Professor Pavis has written extensively about performance, and his books include Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture, Languages of the Stage: Essays in the Semiology of Theatre, and Contemporary Mise en Scène: Staging Theatre Today.

Harold Pinter CH CBE (1930-2008) was an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, director, actor and also Associate Director of the National Theatre from 1973-1983. His most notable plays include The Birthday Party (1957), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.
Harold Pinter was made an honorary fellow of the university in 1986. The Harold Pinter Drama Studio is named in his honour, and in 2005 its renovation was marked by a public reading from Pinter and an interview with him.

Peter Sellars, opera and theatre director, and Professor of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, was made an honorary fellow by the university in 2007. Sellars is known for his striking modern reworkings of classical operas, including Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, and The Marriage of Figaro. He also directed the silent colour film, The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez, and co-scripted Jean-Luc Godard's film of Shakespeare's King Lear.

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