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Dr Mick Gowar
Anglia Ruskin University
Visiting Professorship

The Irresistible Storyteller

Jack Zipes at Jackson Magnet Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Human beings are essentially storytellers - as much ‘homo narrans’ as homo sapiens  -  and it is now widely acknowledged that telling stories to ourselves and to others is  fundamental to establishing personal and group identities, and to understanding the world around us and the world within us. Storytellers have not only been the entertainers of cultural and linguistic communities, but also a living archive; able through prodigious feats of memory to preserve history, genealogies, poetry, music, and dance. In short, storytelling and story-sharing form the bases for other forms of intellectual enquiry. Consequently, oral storytelling, and the rhetorical, imaginative, performing and intellectual skills of the storyteller or bard, can reasonably be seen as the foundations of literature, drama, religious thought, the humanities, and even common law.  

The multi-disciplinary nature of stories and storytelling makes it an ideal focus for cross-faculty and cross-institution collaborations, and the forthcoming Leverhulme Visiting Professorship at Anglia Ruskin University is proving to be just such a focus, thanks to the outstanding combination of skills, talents and experience that our Leverhulme visiting professor is bringing to the post.  

Jack Zipes, is not only a world-renowned scholar within the fields of children’s literature and especially in the study of fairy tales and folk tales, he is also a skilled practitioner in the field of performance storytelling.  As well as a series of Leverhulme lectures, to include lectures shared with Lincoln and Cambridge Universities, Professor Zipes will be giving masterclasses to students on the practical skills and applications of storytelling.  He will also undertake a programme of school visits to share his enormous fund of stories with children, teachers and parents in Cambridgeshire schools, continuing his pioneering work with the Neighbourhood Bridges project in his home city of Minneapolis-St Paul. 

In addition, Professor’s Zipes’s experience of academic leadership and publishing at the very highest levels will help support an already strong and developing research culture within a new university and the development of a range of new research projects and taught courses.  He is already giving considerable personal support to the European Storytelling Archive and World Wide Story Web projects based at Anglia Ruskin, and to the newly-established Childhood and Youth Research Institute, and staff, undergraduate and postgraduate students, are all looking forward to working even more closely with Professor Zipes in the coming year. 

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