Submitting InstitutionAnglia Ruskin University
Unit of AssessmentEnglish Language and Literature
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Rebecca Stott's research into evolutionary theory (2001-7) has informed public knowledge of the
history and philosophy of science. Both her fiction and her creative non-fiction make comparatively
unfamiliar aspects of early evolutionary theory accessible to the general reader, and have thus
enhanced understanding of science as well as scientists' understanding of culture. Stott founded a
tradition of exploring science-literature intersections within our department which has been carried
forward by our creative writers Katy Price and Laura Dietz.
Rebecca Stott worked in the Department of English, Communication, Film and Media at Anglia
Ruskin between 1993 and 2007, and became a Professor in 2002. During this period she
established a track record of scholarship focused on the development, transmission and cultural
significance of evolutionary history. During her time at Anglia Ruskin she produced the works
which established her both as an authority on nineteenth-century literature and as a creative
practitioner combining scholarly archival work with creative writing for a wider audience: Theatres
of Glass: The Woman Who Brought the Sea to the City (2003), Darwin and the Barnacle (2003),
Oyster (2004), and Ghostwalk (2007). There is a strong synergy between her scholarly work and
her fiction, and the latter can be seen both as further evidence of research and as a vehicle for
impact. The relationship between her critical and creative work is evidenced, for example, in her
article `Thomas Carlyle and the Crowd: Revolution, Geology and the Convulsive "Nature" of Time'
(1999) which engaged with the same phenomenon later to be explored in her novel The Coral
Thief (2009) - the relationship, or perceived relationship, between the discourses of science and
Darwin and the Barnacle (2003) is an account of an eight-year period in the life of Charles Darwin
in which, abandoning his major work on natural selection (eventually to become The Origin of
Species), he obsessively struggles to solve the riddle of a single species of barnacle. It explores
the way in which his reading during these years shaped his thinking. Stott's focus on the impact of
literature, biography and travel writing on his scientific discoveries exemplifies her distinctive
interest in the interface between science, culture and creativity. This research monograph was
submitted to RAE 2008.
Ghostwalk (2007) was also submitted to RAE 2008. The novel explores Sir Isaac Newton's study
of alchemy. Blending fiction and non-fiction, it includes seventeenth-century accounts of alchemy,
optics, glass-making and the plague with twenty-first-century issues such as animal rights
campaigns and quantum physics. As well as presenting findings drawn from Stott's academic
research into the history and philosophy of science, Ghostwalk, through its innovative literary
techniques, is an example of research as creative practice. It experiments with form and genre,
and engages with a range of complex issues, including temporality, quantum entanglement and
Research within the department has continued to build on Stott's example. Dietz's novel In the
Tenth House (RAE 2008) explores the relationship between science and spiritualism at the end of
the nineteenth century and Price's Loving Faster Than Light (2012), which was written while Price
was based in our UoA, analyses the intersection of science and literature, and the social and
cultural history of physics.
References to the research
Stott gained a Leverhulme Scholarship 1996-7 and a Leverhulme/British Academy Research
Readership in 2004. http://www.britac.ac.uk/funding/awards/posts/rrsrf2004.cfm The 2004 grant
was awarded to enable her to pursue her research into the relationship between literature and
Published research outputs include:
1. `Thomas Carlyle and the Crowd: Revolution, Geology and the Convulsive "Nature" of Time',
Journal of Victorian Culture, 4.1 (1999) DOI 10.1080/13555509909505977
This was published in a well-regarded peer reviewed journal, and was submitted to RAE 2001 in
which Anglia Ruskin University (then Anglia Polytechnic University) was awarded a 5 for English.
2. Oyster (London: Reaktion, 2003)
This was part of a well-received series, and was submitted to RAE 2008 by the University of East
Anglia. Over 91% of items submitted by this UoA scored 2* or better. It can be supplied by the HEI
3. Darwin and the Barnacle (London: Faber and Faber, 2003)
This was published by a high profile publisher and was submitted to RAE 2008 by the University of
East Anglia. Over 91% of items submitted by this UoA scored 2* or better. The item can be
supplied by the HEI on request.
4. `Through a Glass darkly: Aquarium Colonies and Nineteenth-century Narratives of Marine
Monstrosity', Gothic Studies: 2:3 (2000), pp. 305-27
This was published in a peer-reviewed journal and was submitted to RAE 2001 in which Anglia
Ruskin University (then Anglia Polytechnic University) was awarded a 5 for English. It can be
supplied by the HEI on request.
5. Theatres of Glass: The Woman who Brought the Sea to the City (Short Books, 2003)
This item can be supplied by the HEI on request.
6. Ghostwalk, (London: Phoenix, 2007).
This was submitted to RAE 2008 by the University of East Anglia. Over 91% of items submitted by
this UOA scored 2* or better. This item can be supplied by the HEI on request.
Details of the impact
Stott's novels are both instantiations of research and conduits for impact. Thus as well as
enhancing the personal development of readers, through expanding and enriching their
imagination, they also help develop public understanding of science. Ghostwalk was first published
in 2007 (paperback 2008), and quickly generated impact. For example in 2008 Stott was
interviewed for Radio Wisconsin about the use of physics in the novel, and it was shortlisted for
Cambridgeshire's Book of the Decade competition in 2010. It has sold over 24,000 copies, and
was reviewed positively in the Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph and Independent, as well as
in many other newspapers, magazines and internet sites. It has been translated into 12 different
languages and was shortlisted for the Jelf First Novel prize. It attracted over 100 reviews on
Amazon.com. With its detailed representation of seventeenth-century and contemporary scientific
cultures, it has brought the history and philosophy of science to new audiences.
The Coral Thief, like Ghostwalk, is an example of research as creative practice. It is also a vector
through which the earlier research Stott undertook at Anglia Ruskin continues to have impact. As
with Ghostwalk, this impact manifests itself as the cultural and intellectual enrichment of those who
have read or listened to the novel, or to Stott's discussion of the research and thought which
informed its composition. Ghostwalk is set in the Cambridge of Sir Isaac Newton while The Coral
Thief is set in post-revolutionary France and links the political and religious upheavals of that era to
the scientific discoveries of Cuvier and Lamarck. Thus, while introducing readers to landmarks in
pre-Darwinian scientific thought, the novels encourage both those with a scientific background and
general readers to explore the wider implications of scientific research in order to better understand
the complex connections between the discursive practices of science, politics and religion. This
both contributes to public understanding of a significant issue facing society and creates cultural
capital which improves the quality of people's lives. These distinctive qualities of Stott's research
reflect our UoA's wider engagement with scientific debates, as instanced in the creative practice of
Dietz, the research and creative practice of Price, and in many colleagues' expertise in science
fiction, the subject of another case study.
Stott was interviewed about The Coral Thief on Woman's Hour by Jane Garvey on 24 December
2009. In that year Woman's Hour attracted record numbers of listeners, reaching an audience of 3
million for the first time in its history. Subsequently The Coral Thief was read by Jane Allard on
Radio 4's Book at Bedtime (11-22 January 2010). Book at Bedtime typically attracts 600,000
listeners per night, or 1.5 million over the course of a week. Ghostwalk and The Coral Thief were
both released as audiobooks, in 2007 and 2009 respectively. In addition, nearly 5,000 copies of the
novel have been sold.
The Coral Thief was first published in hardback and subsequently reissued in paperback (2010).It
has had a worldwide market, and was reviewed in the Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph and
Independent, in addition to numerous other papers, magazines and internet sites including:
London Metro, Sugar, Big Issue in the North, Sunday Business Post, Publishers' Weekly, Booklist,
Kirkus Reviews, Portsmouth Herald, Washington Post, The Bookseller UK, The Scotsman, Choice
Magazine, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Waterstone's Books Quarterly, Woman Magazine, New
Scientist, Times Literary Supplement, Dallas Morning News, and Science magazine.
Stott's books have also been reviewed worldwide in scientific journals such as Chemical Heritage
and New Scientist as well as in mainstream and literary publications. This range suggests the
impact she has had on both popular and academic awareness of the relationship between
literature and science, contributing to scientists' appreciation of the public and historical
understanding of their fields. Her works have contributed significantly to contemporary debates
about the place of science in society. Stott's novels conform most clearly to the second example
given in the indicative range of impact categories offered in the Panel Criteria and Working
Methods. As well received and widely reviewed examples of innovative literary fiction they have
created cultural capital, and they also function as interpretations of cultural capital, communicating,
and inviting reflection on, research into the history and philosophy of science.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Link confirming the broadcast of The Coral Thief on Book at Bedtime (2010).
- Link to Woman's Hour Interview in 2009
- Link to an interview with Rebecca Stott to mark Cambridge's A Book a Day in May event in
- Notification that Ghostwalk was on the shortlist for Cambridge's Book of the Decade award.
- Link to Anna Mundow's review of The Coral Thief in the Washington Post (23/9/2009)
- Link to Peter Forbes's review of The Coral Thief in the Independent (8/1/2010)
- Link to Clare Clark's review of The Coral Thief in the Guardian (6/2/2010)
- Link to Andrew Robinson's review of The Coral Thief in New Scientist (25/1/2010)