Terry Pratchett joins the staff at Trinity College Dublin

29 Oct 2010

Celebrated science fiction writer Prof Sir Terry Pratchett has joined the staff at Trinity College Dublin as an adjunct professor in the School of English.

Pratchett’s close relationship with the university began in December 2008 when he was conferred with an honorary degree, and since then the relationship has deepened, with Colin Smythe, Pratchett’s literary agent, donating a complete back catalogue of Pratchett’s published translations to the college library in 2009.

University life features regularly in his best-selling Discworld novels, with his hilarious descriptions of “Unseen University” and its eccentric staff, such as the “Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography”, and the simian librarian who refuses all efforts to undo his magical transformation into an orangutan.

On joining the staff of Trinity, Pratchett will now find out what academic life is really like from the inside.

He will give his first lecture next Thursday (4 November) and will focus on creative writing and popular literature for post-grad students.

With 70 million copies of his books in print worldwide, published in 38 languages, Pratchett is “one of the world’s best-loved writers”.

Pratchett is a British fantasy, science fiction and children’s author, best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. He has written 48 books. His first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel (The Colour of Magic) was published in 1983, he has written 44 books and co-authored nearly 50 more.

He is currently the second most-read writer in the UK, and seventh most-read non-US author in the US. In 2001 he won the Carnegie Medal for his children’s novel The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.

He was given an OBE in 1998, and a knighthood in 2009, both for “services to literature”. (The initial soundings-out from Downing Street when he received his OBE came as such a surprise to him that initially he thought it must be an elaborate hoax.)

In December 2007, Pratchett publicly announced he was suffering from the posterior cortical atrophy variant of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, subsequently making a substantial public donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. Since then, has been in the forefront of a campaign to raise public awareness of the disease. 

Taking up his post as adjunct professor of English at Trinity College Dublin with great enthusiasm, Pratchett has been busy preparing classes in creative writing and popular literature for students on a range of Trinity’s post-graduate courses.

These students will next week get the benefit of master classes from one of the greatest comic novelists of the modern era.

On Thursday, 4 November, at 7 pm, Pratchett will deliver his public inaugural professorial lecture in the college’s Public Theatre – which, drawing on Trinity’s literary heritage, he has entitled, “The importance of being absolutely amazed about everything”.

“And now I are one!”

Commenting on his entry to academic life, Pratchett commented: “Until recently, I couldn’t even spell academic and now I are one!”

Welcoming Pratchett to the staff of Trinity College Dublin, Provost John Hegarty noted that his appointment is part of a major initiative by Trinity to spearhead a new approach to the creative arts, technologies and culture.

Hegarty said promoting the generation of new ideas, connectivity and programmes across the arts and sciences and between the city and the university, a new appreciation of creative practice within the university is at its core.

“Prof Sir Terry Pratchett brings a new depth of creative genius to our cohort of distinguished international adjuncts in our School of English.

“His contribution to the student experience and to the wider Trinity experience will be absolutely unique and we are delighted to have him on our staff,” Hegarty said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years