Walcott finally wins his poetry professorship

Nobel laureate chosen by Essex University after smear campaign cost him Oxford job

A Nobel laureate has been named professor of poetry at Essex University after he was forced to pull out of the race for a similar post at Oxford following a smear campaign against him.

Derek Walcott, the internationally acclaimed Caribbean poet, playwright, writer and artist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992, will give a series of lectures and workshops at the university's campus in Colchester.

In May, he withdrew his candidacy for the Oxford poetry professorship when details of two sexual harassment claims made against him became a dominant theme of the campaign.

Academics and graduates eligible to vote in the election were anonymously sent a lurid dossier accusing Walcott of being a sex pest. It recounted a sexual harassment claim made against Walcott, 79, when he taught at Harvard in the 1980s. Another harassment allegation against the poet dating from 1996 in Boston also re-emerged.

The Oxford election descended into farce when the eventual winner, Ruth Padel, was forced to quit nine days later when she was implicated in the smear campaign.

Professor Walcott, who is often decribed as the greatest West Indian writer and intellectual, divides his time between St Lucia and New York and does not often travel to the UK. He will arrive in April for student workshops and a public reading at Essex University, which gave him an honorary degree in September 2008.

The partnership may seem an unlikely one, but the university – which was known in the 1960s for protests by radical left-wing students – is home to experts on Walcott's work and other Caribbean literature.

He said yesterday: "I am delighted to be professor of poetry at the University of Essex. When I was awarded my honorary doctorate last year I was impressed by the warm atmosphere and intellectual drive of the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, which is home to formidable scholars and committed Caribbeanists.

"While I was there, I also had the opportunity to meet talented and enthusiastic students, and I am really looking forward to working with this cohort of emerging writers."

Dr Maria Cristina Fumagalli, a senior lecturer in the literature faculty at Essex, said: "This is an incredible opportunity not only for our students, but also for the general public. Very rarely do people get the chance to learn directly from a writer of this calibre."

The novelist Marina Warner, an Essex professor and personal friend of Walcott's who had backed him for the Oxford post, said: "[He] is a major poet whose writings include drama, essays, lyric and epic poetry. It is a marvellous and exciting boon that he is coming to us as professor of poetry.

"Our strong tradition of research and teaching in creative writing, as well as in the literature of the Caribbean, is growing vigorously, and Derek Walcott's presence will be an added inspiration."

Professor Walcott, a father of three, is a national hero in his native St Lucia and has a square named after him in his home town. His fans include Barack Obama, who was photographed clutching a book of Walcott poems three days after winning the presidential election.

Oxford is still waiting to fill its poetry post, and has changed to its voting system to prevent a repeat of this year's election chaos.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star