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News > Alumni News > 1950's Alumni > Remembering Molly Mahood: Surbiton's renowned Scholar

Remembering Molly Mahood: Surbiton's renowned Scholar

Alumni Molly Mahood's career took her far from the quiet suburbs of Surbiton

Having taught everyone from Nobel literature prize winner Wole Soyinka to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, alumni Molly Mahood's career took her far from the quiet suburbs of Surbiton. 

During her thirteen years spent teaching in Africa, she was one of the first to appreciate how influential African literature would become, claiming that "cultural revivals in both west and east Africa ... have given us some of today's most gifted writers"

Indeed, she herself went on to heavily influence one of the most respected African authors, Wole Soyinka, who in 1986 became the first African to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Molly secured a Rockefeller fellowship for him to be able to travel to broaden his studies. 
When she returned to England she was appointed as professor of English at the University of Kent, and quickly co-founded a new degree, African and Caribbean studies, which was one of the first to focus on post-colonialism.

Her clear passion for literature resonated with her students. She described herself as being a bit hypnotised, by Shakespeare's art and needing to "share that fascination with other playgoers and readers". 

Today many of her texts, described by The Guardian as being written with 'wit and clarity', remain essential reading for students and lecturers alike. Her books spanned a multitude of areas in literature, exploring everything from Shakespeare ( 1957's 'Shakespeare's wordplay') to Botany ( 2008's 'The Poet as Botanist'). The latter was awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay prize in 2009 in recognition of her outstanding work. 

However, whilst Molly's legacy undoubtedly includes her nine published works and their awards, it also is seen on the effect she has had on her students. She taught with genuine enthusiasm and passion, which helped her to have such a profound impact on students ranging from those at St Hugh's College, Oxford, to those at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. 

Image Source: University of Kent

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