- PhD in English Literature (Sussex)
- MA in Creative Writing, the Arts and Education (Sussex)
- BA in English Literature and Philsophy (Open)
- BSc in Biology (Sussex)
Poetry, short story, the novel, literary fiction, fictional auto/biography, literary biography, life writing, Shakespeare.
Modules currently or previously taught, moderated or examined
- Introduction to Poetry (Level 4)
- Engaging Poetry (Level 4)
- Foundation Workshop in Creative Writing (Level 4)
- Creating the Text (Level 4/5)
- Creative Writing Workshop (Level 5)
- Shakespeare (Level 5)
- The Outsider in Shakespeare (Level 6)
- Workshop in Creative and Life Writing (Level 7)
Principal areas of research
Early Modern literary biography (Shakespeare, Marlowe, contemporaries), authorship attribution (including stylometry), the Shakespeare authorship question, writing
Early Modern authorship attribution
Attribution arguments are a key research area, both in terms of what is called computational stylistics or stylometry (where my science and IT background has proved useful), and more traditional literary/historical arguments. Recent publications examine stylometric methods used to make attribution claims in the New Oxford Shakespeare for Christopher Marlowe’s co-authorship of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays and demolish another claim that attempts to strip away most of Marlowe’s canon. An essay called ‘Big Data, Little Certainty: Shakespeare, Marlowe and Henry VI’ was joint winner of the 2018 Calvin & Rose G Hoffman Prize.
The Shakespeare Authorship Question
My fascination with the Shakespeare authorship question, often disparaged as a topic not worth academic study, has led me to examine the veracity of arguments used on both sides of debate. This has in turn led to articles examining historical precedents for names used in Shakespeare’s 2 Henry IV and Henry V (claimed to be the names of Shakespeare’s Stratford neighbours), and the question of whether or not Shakespeare’s works contain words derived from Warwickshire or Midlands dialect. An ongoing project, Shakespeare: The Evidence, details the evidence, arguments and counter-arguments marshalled on both sides of this perennial (and often heated) debate. I am the author and presenter of the Coursera MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Introduction to Who Wrote Shakespeare.
Early Modern literary biography
My PhD focused on the relationship between biography and fiction (with respect to the Shakespeare authorship question) and this has led to my developing something of a revisionist outlook with respect to literary biography. I have published articles re-evaluating the literary and historical evidence used to construct Marlowe’s accepted biography, looking in particular in the way that his scandalous posthumous reputation has coloured interpretations of his personality: as violent, for example. An article entitled ‘Was Marlowe Faustus?’ exploring Marlowe’s links with other writers was joint winner of the 2014 Calvin & Rose G Hoffman Prize. I have also published articles on writers connected to Marlowe’s social circle, Sir John Davies and Gervase Markham. In November 2015 I delivered the inaugural Annual Christopher Marlowe Lecture in London for The Marlowe Society. Biographical interpretations of Shakespeare’s Sonnets have also been explored in two published papers.
Writing is a form of research which sometimes requires additional research of its own. I continue to develop in my practice as a writer, working both in literary fiction and in other genres, including poetry, drama, and stand-up comedy. Debut novel The Marlowe Papers (2012) was winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize, joint winner of the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and long-listed for the Bailey’s (formerly the Orange) Women’s Fiction Prize. It was also winner of the 2011 Calvin & Rose G Hoffman Prize. My second novel Devotion (2015), was shortlisted for the Encore Award. Two collections of poetry with Carcanet, How Things Are On Thursday (2004) and Material (2008), led to the inclusion of the poem ‘Material’ in Faber’s Poems of the Decade (2010) and subsequently the Edexcel ‘A’ Level syllabus.
Barber, Ros. 2005. Not the Usual Grasses Singing: A Journey Around the Isle of Sheppey. Four Shores. ISBN 978-0955046704
Barber, Ros. 2019. Function Word Adjacency Networks and Early Modern Plays. ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, ISSN 0895-769X
Barber, Ros. 2010. Exploring biographical fictions: the role of imagination in writing and reading narrative. Rethinking History, 14(2), pp. 165-187. ISSN 1364-2529