AS Byatt

Antonia Susan Byatt (b. Sheffield, 1936) read English at Newnham College from 1954 to 1957. Her mother, Kathleen Drabble, and sister, Margaret Drabble, had both studied in Cambridge, and Byatt remembers being told, as early as the age of five, that she would go to Cambridge. Here Byatt joined an English Faculty dominated by the famous literary critic F.R Leavis, and she was subsequently shaped by his views on the moral importance of literature. In an autobiographical gesture, her fictions often send their heroines to Cambridge. Anna Severell in The Shadow of the Sun (1964), written while Byatt was still an undergraduate, and Frederica Potter in Still Life (1985) both experience quintessential Cambridge narratives whilst reading at the University Library, sitting the Tripos exams, and getting ready for the June May Ball; experiences that resonate with anyone reading for a degree in Cambridge. (There is a very interesting essay by Byatt about writing The Shadow of the Sun. You can find it on her website:

Apart from many intricately woven novels - The Virgin in the Garden (1978), Babel Tower (1996), Biographer's Tale (2001) - Byatt has published richly imagined collections of short stories - The Matisse Stories (1993) and Elementals (1998). Her critical writing is at its best in the eclectic collections of essays Passions of the Mind (1991) and On History and Stories (2000), which variedly discuss topics ranging from Browning, Freud, post-structuralism and Van Gogh to modern British historical fiction, the Arabian Nights and European storytelling.  A novelist of many quotations, allusions and literary debts, Byatt sees her writing shaped by the reading of Georgette Heyer, Marcel Proust, Iris Murdoch and George Eliot. Her new novel, The Children's Book, set in the Edwardian period, was published in May 2009.

Most of the Byatt resources presented here relate to the intersections between Byatt's writing and that of other English poets and novelists, though you will also find materials on the importance of visual arts to her writing. Use the links to the left to navigate through the topics.

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