Dr Ellen Wiles
Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing (E&R)
I am a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, and a novelist, anthropologist, and multidisciplinary artist. I previously worked as a barrister specialising in human rights law. My personal website is www.ellenwiles.com.
My novel, The Invisible Crowd (HQ, 2017), explores the culture of immigration and asylum in the UK. It tells the story of an Eritrean asylum seeker, his barrister, and the various different people he meets in the UK on his quest for leave to remain. It was awarded a Victor Turner Prize for ethnographic writing. My second novel has been contracted by HarperCollins. My literary agent is Laura Macdougall at United Agents.
Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015) is the first book to explore Myanmar's literature and culture in depth, and includes new literary translations, extended interviews with authors, and an exploration of the way in which literary creativity was shaped by legal and political restrictions in the country.
Live Literature: The Experience and Cultural Value of Literary Performance Events from Salons to Festivals (Palgrave, 2021) is a multidisciplinary book that explores the culture of live literature events, how they shape literary culture, and how creative writing techniques can be incorporated into ethnographic writing in order to interrogate the nature and value of arts-based experiences.
I create immersive literary audio exploring landscapes and nature, engaging diverse audiences with the climate and ecological emergency. I have been commissioned by organisations such as The National Trust and The British Library. I create sound and video installations as part of my practice. I have previously been funded by Arts Council England to create immersive short story shows in library spaces through the Ark project. I also host podcasts and in-conversation events, such as The Hexagon arts and culture podcast.
I currently convene two modules: Write After Reading, a first year undergraduate creative writing module, and Writing for the Planet: an MA module engaging with literary activism and the climate emergency.
I welcome enquiries from PhD students for projects that chime with my creative research interests. I currently supervise Fiona Williams, Emma Craigie, and Anna Kiernan.
My research interests include creative writing, contemporary literature, literary anthropology, literary activism, eco writing, censorship, contemporary literary culture, live literature, performance experience, cultural value, interdisciplinarity, publishing, world literatures, and audio literature.
I have collaborated with non-academic partners including The National Trust, The British Library, Devon Wildlife Trust, Clinton Devon Estates, and Literature Works.
I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students for creative writing projects that chime with my research interests.
I currently supervise three PhD students: Emma Craigie, whose life writing project explores the deep history of the Somerset Levels; Fiona Williams, whose creative writing project engages with diverse folk story retellings and who is funded by a BAME Studentship; and Anna Kiernan, whose non-fiction project explores the impact of digitalisation on writing culture.
Research through practice
Much of my research is led by my creative practice, and I regularly collaborate with non-academic partners to produce creative outputs. For more information and links to some of these outputs, please go to my website.
As a literary anthropologist and ethnographer, I have conducted extensive fieldwork, including at literary festivals and events, and among writers in Myanmar.
External impact and engagement
I value and enjoy public engagement.
I have presented, performed and curated many literary festivals and events as well as academic conferences.
At Exeter, I founded and host The Hexagon, a video podcast exploring the arts and culture.
I have curated events including the Speaking of Writing speaker series featuring women writers of colour.
My Ark project, funded by Arts Council England, involved curating and directing large-scale events in library and gallery spaces including multiple author-performers, actors, artists and a production team.
Other literary events I have curated include a panel on Asylum Stories at The British Library in which I performed alongside Juliet Stevenson, Dina Nayeri, Ruth Padel and Maya Youssef. My event at Gladstone's Library's Hearth Festival is available to stream on Soundcloud.
Contribution to discipline
I contribute to the discipline of creative writing through a variety of outputs, and through knowledge exchange and impact activity, ranging from novels and literary audio through to monographs, essays, and journal articles.
As an interdisciplinary and collaborative writer and scholar, I often forge connections between seemingly separate disciplines, such as creative writing, performance studies, literary studies, anthropology, cognitive science, environmental science, and law.
I have presented my work on BBC national and local radio, and have appeared on podcasts.
I am an inclusive, empathetic and engaging teacher, and enjoy working with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. I prioritise diversity in the literary texts that I teach, and always strive to maintain a supportive and welcoming atmosphere in the classroom.
- EAS1042 - Write after Reading
- EAS1043 - Critical Reflections
- EASM166 - Prose Writing Workshop
- EASM182 - Writing for the Planet: Creative Writing as Activism in a Time of Climate Change and Ecological Decline
For information about my bio please see my website: www.ellenwiles.com
Before taking up the post of Lecturer in Creative Writing at Exeter, I taught creative writing at QMUL, City Lit, Camden Arts Centre, and The British Library.
My PhD on live literature was funded by the AHRC, and was based in the Publishing Studies Department at Stirling University (2013-2019).
I have published three books:
Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015)
The Invisible Crowd (HarperCollins, 2017)
Live Literature: The Experience and Cultural Value of Literary Performance Events from Salons to Festivals
I was funded by the AHRC for a live literature project, Ark, to produce immersive short story shows in library spaces.
Before focusing on creative writing and academia, I worked as a barrister, specialising in human rights, at 39 Essex Chambers (2007-2014). During that time I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London (Distinction). I also have a Masters in Law from UCL, when I specialised in human rights and social theory (Distinction).
My undergraduate degree was in Music at Oxford University. I was awarded the top first in my year.