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Former creative writing student wins £10,000 book prize

Dr Ros Barber, author of the award-winning novel The Marlowe Papers, discusses the 'Shakespeare authorship question' in a Researcher Reflections film.

A former creative writing DPhil student and tutor at Sussex yesterday (Thursday 27 June) won a major national book award worth £10,000.

Dr Ros Barber won the 2013 Desmond Elliott prize for debut fiction for The Marlowe Papers - the verse novel she wrote as the central part of her doctoral thesis at Sussex.

An established poet, Ros taught creative writing at Sussex for 12 years and completed her DPhil in 2011.

Her book explores the intrigue around the death of Elizabethan playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe and the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.

Ros said: “My three previous books were poetry. The Marlowe Papers is somewhat unusual as debut novels go, as this fictional autobiography of Christopher Marlowe is written entirely in blank verse.

“I loved every minute of my DPhil and my supervisor Andrew Hadfield’s support was invaluable. And the training I received at Sussex was excellent.”

Novelist Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and the chair of judges, described the novel as a "unique historical conspiracy story".

She said: "It is as enticing as a top-flight thriller, with the welcome addition of gorgeous, evocative language as visual and concise as a screenplay.

"The Marlowe Papers is technically accomplished and hugely impressive in both style and scope, enhanced by being written in verse, it is certainly an ambitious undertaking for a new novelist - I cannot wait to read Barber's next book."

The Marlowe Papers was also longlisted for this year's Women's Fiction Prize and, in 2011, was awarded the Calvin & Rose G. Hoffman Prize by the Marlowe Society for "a distinguished publication on Christopher Marlowe".

Ros discussed what is known as “the Shakespeare authorship question”, i.e. the argument over whether someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him, in a 45-minute film in 2011 as part of the University’s Research Reflections series.

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Friday, 28 June 2013


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