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School of English and Drama

Alumni and Fellows


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. 

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.

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.


Honorary Fellows and Honorary Graduates

In addition to our notable alumni, several key cultural figures and critical thinkers have been made honorary fellows or honorary graduates of the university. Our honorary fellows include the literary critic, Sir (John) Frank Kermode MA FBA (1919-2010), made a fellow in 2004; the author, Andrea Levy, best known for Small Island, who became a fellow in 2012; and Simon Gray (1936-2008), the playwright, novelist, and former lecturer in the English Department at Queen Mary, who was made a fellow in 1985.

Honorary graduates of the university have included the philosopher Jacques Derrida (DLitt, 2004), and the literary critics Dame Gillian Beer DBE FBA (DLitt, 2000), Professor Marilyn Butler FBA (DLitt, 2008), Professor George Steiner MA DPhil FBA FRSL (DLitt, 2006), and Professor Stephen Greenblatt (DLitt, 2001).

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