School of English


Literary Kent

As a student of literature at the University of Kent you will be surrounded by centuries of literary history.

Literary Canterbury  

Chaucer’s celebrated The Canterbury Tales remains, to this day, one of Canterbury’s most significant literary connections. The tales, written in Middle English at the end of the 14th century, are told by a group of pilgrims as part of a story-telling contest as they travel on the still used pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer’s legacy and poetry can be found across the city and displays of artefacts and pictures are featured in collections at the Canterbury Tales Museum, the Canterbury Heritage Museum and Canterbury Cathedral. The 16th century playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury and studied at The King’s School, one of seven schools established by Henry VIII in 1541. Other famous King’s School alumni include the 16th century author and playwright John Lyly, the prolific author Somerset Maugham (whose library of books was bequeathed to the school) and the children’s novelist Michael Morpurgo, whilst the nearby Junior King’s School was opened in 1929 by Rudyard Kipling (the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.)

Dickens spent most of his life in Kent (predominantly in the Rochester area where he grew up and in nearby Broadstairs where he spent his summers) and wrote about the county often. Canterbury also features in many of his novels and around every corner you will find a reference to his life and work. Joseph Conrad spent many years living in and around Canterbury and was buried here in 1924 after a distinguished and prolific career. Ian Fleming wrote the last book to be published during his lifetime,You Only Live Twice, at The Duck Inn just outside Canterbury, as well as the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tale. T S Eliot bought the city back into the national literary consciousness in 1935 when he was commissioned to write a play for the Canterbury Festival. Murder in the Cathedral is generally considered to be one of Eliot’s finest plays and it was recently performed again at the increasingly popular Canterbury Festival which still takes place at venues across the city every October.

Many appreciative readers of Jane Austen flock to what was once her brother’s estate, Godmersham Park, where her visits often lasted for several months. Both the gardens (which are open to the public) and the nearby village of Godmersham are believed to be the inspiration for several of her novels. Virginia Woolf spent sporadic periods of time in Blean, the closest village to the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus. Though not always happy in her visits, in 1904 she wrote the following lines to her sister: “There is no lovelier place in the world than Canterbury – that I say with hand on my heart as I sit in Florence – and I have seen Venice too.” As a postgraduate student at Kent you will belong to Woolf College which was named in her honour in 2009. 

Although a relatively young university, Kent already has several famous authors as alumni. Authors and poets include the novelists Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day, 1989), David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, 200I) Sarah Waters (Tipping the Velvet, 1998), David Wingrove (the Chung Kuo series 1989-1999) and Frederick Kambemba Yamusangie (Full Circle, 2003); and the poets Valerie Bloom and Debjani Chatterjee. The School of English is also privileged to have many published authors working within its staff, some of whom teach on the Creative Writing programmes.  Current published authors in the school include Patricia Debney, David Flusfeder, Amy Sackville, Simon Smith, Scarlett Thomas, Abdulrazak Gurnah and David Herd.

Literary Paris proust

Some of our taught postgraduate programmes allow students to spend a term at our Paris Centre, where you cannot help but find literary inspiration. Reid Hall is grouped around two quiet and leafy inner courtyards in a historic corner of Montparnasse in central Pairs. The area is famous for its literary connections and is filled with the cafes and restaurants that inspired writers and artists such as Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and George Orwell. As well as the influx authors in the early 20th century Paris has its own astonishing list of literary connections. There are homes and museums to some of the cities greatest authors such as Camus, Voltaire, The Marquis de Sade, Balzac, Sartre, Hugo, Molière, de Beauvoir, Baudelaire, Flaubert and Proust.





School of English, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NX

The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 823054

Last Updated: 02/06/2014