Dr Ellen Wiles
Lecturer in Creative Writing (E&R)
I am a Lecturer in Creative Writing, and a novelist, anthropologist, curator and sound maker.
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.
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 also curate literary events and experiences. I make literary soundwalks exploring landscapes impacted by the ecological and climate crises, working with scientists and organisations such as The National Trust. My live literature project, Ark, was funded by Arts Council England to stage immersive short story performances in library and gallery spaces involving cross-arts collaborations and new commissions. I enjoy podcasting, and hosted The Hexagon arts and culture podcast for the University.
I previously taught Creative Writing at QMUL, City Lit, and Camden Arts Centre. Before that, I worked as a barrister and as a musician.
Alongside my teaching and literary soundwalk research project, I am working on my second novel. My literary agent is Laura Macdougall at United Agents.
My personal website is: www.ellenwiles.com and you can find me on social @ellenwiles.
I currently teach on the first year undergraduate creative writing module, Write After Reading, and two MA modules, Writing for the Planet and Prose Writing Workshop.
For prospective PhD students: I welcome enquiries about supervision for Creative Writing theses involving prose fiction and creative non-fiction, and interdicsiplinary projects that chime with my research. I am currently supervising Emma Craigie, whose creative memoir project explores life and archaeology on the Somerset Levels; Fiona Williams, whose creative writing project explores the representation of black characters in English folktale retellings; and Anna Kiernan, whose non-fiction project explores the impact of digitalisation on writing culture.
For students who would like to meet with me during office hours: please send me an email to book a slot.
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 welcome enquiries about supervision for Creative Writing theses involving prose fiction and creative non-fiction, and interdicsiplinary projects that chime with my research.
I am currently supervising a PhD student whose work explores autofiction and landscape writing.
Research through practice
As a creative writing scholar, I am extremely interested in the value of practice-based research, and the ways in which creative practices of writing and other forms of communication can enhance knowledge, understanding and public engagement.
An example of my practice-based curatorial work is my Ark project: www.arkshortstories.com
My novel, The Invisible Crowd, was awarded a prize for ethnographic writing by anthropologists, demonstrating my engagement with interdisciplinarity through the lens of creative writing and creative practice in general.
My anthropological work on live literature involved fieldwork -- in some cases literally -- at live literature events, such as The Hay Festival and Polari Salon, in order to produce ethnographies that evoke and examine the experience of participating in those events and reveal their cultural value. I am very interested in what creative forms of ethnography can reveal about contemporary literary culture, going beyond common perceptions and statistics.
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 am passionate about Creative Writing, and its symbiotic relationship with powerful critical writing, both within and beyond the discipline. My distinctive contribution to the discipline of Creative Writing lies in by my interdisciplinary background and perspective, and the value I place on public engagement across different audience groups. This is demonstrated by my anthropological work on live literature and on literary culture in Myanmar, and my curatorial practice which involves cross-arts collaborations and performances in public spaces.
I love working with students from all backgrounds, and take great pleasure in introducing them to dynamic and diverse contemporary texts and varied creative inspirations, and supporting them in developing their own distinctive writing.
This year I am convening two modules: Write After Reading (EAS1042) and Writing for the Planet (EASM182).
- 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
Before taking up the post of Creative Writing Lecturer 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).
During my PhD I published two books: Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015) and The Invisible Crowd (HQ, 2017). My PhD research will be published as a paperback book in 2020 by Palgrave, titled Live Literature: The Experience and Cultural Value of Literary Performance Events from Salons to Festivals.
I founded Ark: an experimental live literature project to stage immersive short story performances in library and gallery spaces involving cross-arts collaborations and new commissions. The project arose out of my live literature research, and was funded by Arts Council England in 2014. Ark has subsequently been commissioned by organisations such as The British Library.
I worked as a human rights barrister in a London chambers from 2007-2014. During that time I did an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. I also have a Masters in Law from UCL, when I specialised in human rights and social theory.
My undergraduate degree was in Music at Oxford University, and I was awarded the top first in my year. I play the flute and piano.
For more information please see my website: www.ellenwiles.com