Professor launches debut novel after spending career writing about female novelists

Professor Janet Todd with author Sarah Dunant

Professor Janet Todd told an audience of Fellows, staff and students why she finally wrote a novel of her own after spending her academic career writing about female novelists.

The Honorary Fellow’s debut novel, A Man of Genius, has been hailed as ‘haunting’, ‘beguiling’, and ‘utterly compelling’ by critics and she was joined in conversation at the event at the Principal’s Lodge on Friday, April 29 by best-selling author Sarah Dunant (NC 1969).

Professor Todd’s debut novel is a historical mystery set in London and Venice in 1819 which investigates the psychology of obsessive love.

Ann, a successful Gothic novelist, becomes infatuated with a playwright and poet, a man she regards first as a genius.

Miriam Margolyes (NC 1960) reads the novel in the audio version of the book and read an extract at the official book launch in Cambridge in March.

In a lively conversation, Dunant and Todd covered everything from Todd’s academic career and inspiration for the novel to the publicity surrounding the domestic abuse storyline in The Archers, BBC Radio 4’s drama.

Professor Todd (NC 1969) is an internationally-renowned scholar of early women writers and her work has been particularly influential in shaping the study of women writers and the representation of women in literature.

She compiled the first encyclopaedia of British and American women writers of the long eighteenth century and edited many individual authors; she has most recently been General Editor of the nine-volume Cambridge Jane Austen

She has written critical studies of feminist literary history and is the biographer of Aphra Behn and three linked women: the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, her tragic eldest daughter, and her eccentric aristocratic Irish pupils.

A Man of Genius is Professor Todd’s first novel and it is available to purchase now.

Photograph caption from left to right: Professor Janet Todd (NC 1969) with best-selling author Sarah Dunant (NC 1969)