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Tuesday 15 February, 7pm (GMT), British Library

This hybrid event will be presented live at the British Library and online via the British Library Player.

Free for RSL Members and Fellows, who can also book one discounted guest ticket (£5 in-person/£3 online). Digital Events Passholders can attend online for free.

Join as a Member today or buy a Digital Events Pass

Having won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Crown, a global audience for her role as sex therapist Jean Milburn in Sex Education, and international fame as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files, Gillian Anderson has devoted her career to inventing, inhabiting and adapting some of the most memorable characters ever written.

What makes Miss Havisham, who Gillian played in Great Expectations, distinct from Wallis Simpson, who she brought to life in  Any Human Heart? How does it feel to give physical form to words on a page?

In this Literature Matters: RSL 200 event, Gillian Anderson and her friend, novelist and RSL Fellow Andrew O’Hagan, will study some of their favourite literary characters, and explore why literature matters so much to them.


Gillian Anderson, award-winning film, television and theatre actress, achieved international recognition for her role in The X-Files. Further television credits include Bleak House, Great Expectations, The Fall, Hannibal,  American Gods, and War and Peace. And in film, The House Of Mirth, Last King Of Scotland, Shadow Dancer, and Johnny English Reborn. She will soon be seen in Mark Forster’s White Bird. On stage, Gillian performed most recently as Margot Channing in Ivo van Hove’s West End adaptation of All About Eve and prior to that in an acclaimed turn as Blanche Dubois in the Young Vic Theatre’s production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Gillian can currently be seen starring as the UK’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in the fourth season of Netflix’s The Crown, as Jean Milburn in Netflix’s Sex Education, and will soon be seen as Eleanor Roosevelt alongside Viola Davis and Michelle Pfeiffer in Showtime’s First Ladies.

Andrew O’Hagan was born in Glasgow and grew up in Ayrshire. He has three times been nominated for the Booker Prize, was voted one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003, and has won the Glenfiddich Writer of the Year Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the E. M. Forster Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is Editor-at-Large of the London Review of Books, and is contributor to Esquire, the New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has served on its governing Council.

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