I am a bestselling author and journalist who joined the University of Birmingham in September 2014. I have published five novels to date, including most recently The Butchers (2020) which is set in the Irish borderlands during the 1996 BSE crisis.
My research interests include transcultural fiction and contemporary Irish fiction, with a particular emphasis on structure and form. I am also an ambassador for the global storytelling charity Narrative 4.
- PhD English, University of Exeter (2014)
- MA Creative Writing, University of East Anglia (2011)
- MA English, Yale University (2010)
- BA English, Cambridge University (2009)
At the age of 18 I published my debut novel Forget (2006) and became the youngest ever person to reach number one on the Irish bestsellers’ list. During my studies at Cambridge and Yale, I published two more commercial novels Somewhere in Between (2007) and Can You See Me? (2009) which also featured on bestsellers’ lists and were translated overseas.
I then took some time away to earn a Creative Writing MA from UEA and a PhD from Exeter; in 2016 I returned with the literary novel, Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, based around the history of Ireland’s Jewish community, and in 2020 I published The Butchers.
My short stories have appeared in a diverse range of publications such as Wasifiri, The Istanbul Review, The Irish Pages, Ambit and Banshee Lit. I also write regular literary reviews for The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The LA Review of Books and The Irish Independent where I was a columnist for a number of years.
For more information, please visit: http://www.ruthgilligan.com/
I teach across undergraduate and postgraduate Creative Writing modules, and have a particular interest in contemporary fiction, novel and short story writing, and writing for the stage. I also occasionally deliver English Literature lectures on contemporary or Modernist Irish writers.
I would be very interested in receiving proposals for postgraduate projects on any themes related to my research (eg. contemporary fiction; writing the ‘other’; experimental forms; Irish Studies). Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any queries!
Find out more - our PhD Creative Writing page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.
My novels combine extensive research with formal experimentation to shine a light on lesser known aspects of Irish history and identity. My critical research, meanwhile, examines the way in which contemporary novelists also use unique formal strategies, either when writing about ‘other’ cultures or when emulating the experimentation of the Modernist period.
Finally, I am interested in the concept of empathy and its relationship with narrative and storytelling. This is exemplified in my Impact work, particularly my involvement in the global not-for-profit Narrative 4.
Since 2014 I have been working for the global not-for-profit Narrative 4 (www.narrative4.com); founded by a group of writers and activists, N4 uses the power of personal stories to break down barriers and foster ‘radical empathy’ between diverse young people around the world. They have run ‘story exchange’ across the US, Mexico, Israel, Palestine, South Africa and beyond, and their work has featured in the New York Magazine, Esquire and Oprah’s O Magazine.
In 2016 I organised the first ever N4 ‘story exchange’ project in England, bringing together diverse youths from across Birmingham. In 2018 I ran a large-scale storytelling initiative between teenagers from Birmingham and Limerick, which formed the basis of a major feature in the Guardian ) and which ultimately inspired the documentary Some Stories (watch the trailer).
I am also the Impact Lead for the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies.
Gilligan, R 2019, Unnatural. Atlantic Books.
Gilligan, R 2018, 'Eimear McBride’s Ireland: A Case for Periodization and the Dangers of Marketing Modernism', English Studies, vol. 99, no. 7, pp. 775-792. https://doi.org/10.1080/0013838X.2018.1510621
Gilligan, R 2017, 'Leopold Bloom is Not the Only Jew in Ireland' Literary Hub.
Gilligan, R 2017, 'The Diversification of Irish Literature: White Truth or White Lie?' World Literature Today.
Gilligan, R 2017, 'Who Ever Heard of an Irish Jew?' Forward .
Gilligan, R 2019, 'Echoes & Nods: The Pristine Beauty of John McGahern's Prose' Times Literary Supplement. <https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/john-mcgahern-touchstones-modernism/>
Gilligan, R 2019, 'Review of Jan Carson's The Fire Starters' Irish Independent. <https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/a-sirens-song-amid-the-panic-and-flames-37961993.html>
Gilligan, R 2019, 'Review of Tana French's The Wych Elm' Irish Independent. <https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/the-wych-elm-tana-french-returns-with-a-tale-of-secrets-lies-and-a-mystery-skeleton-37817776.html>
Gilligan, R 2019, 'Review of Tea Obreht's Inland' Irish Independent. <https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/ta-obrehts-inland-is-worth-the-eight-year-wait-following-muchrevered-the-tigers-wife-38408055.html>
Gilligan, R 2019, 'Review of The Rockingham Shoot & Other Dramatic Writings' Times Literary Supplement. <https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/mcgahern-rockingham-shoot/>
Gilligan, R 2017, 'Form, autobiography, sex: Eimear McBride's second novel' Los Angeles Review of Books. <https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/form-autobiography-sex-eimear-mcbrides-second-novel/>
Gilligan, R 2017, 'Review of Stephen Watt, “Something Dreadful and Grand”: American Literature and the Irish–Jewish Unconscious' Journal of American Studies, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 640-642. https://doi.org/10.1017/S002187581700007X
Gilligan, R 2017, 'Wandering in the Desert: Review of Israelites in Erin: Exodus, Revolution, and the Irish Revival, by Abby Bender, Syracuse University Press,' Dublin Review of Books, vol. 91. <http://www.drb.ie/essays/wandering-in-the-desert>
Gilligan, R 2016, 'A new way of looking: Colum McCann and the empathy of his fiction' Los Angeles Review of Books. <https://lareviewofbooks.org/review/a-new-way-of-looking-colum-mccann-and-the-empathy-of-his-fiction>
Gilligan, R, And Each One of Her Bones Shall Be Broken, 2017, Web publication/site, Wasafiri. <https://www.wasafiri.org/article/one-bones-shall-broken-ruth-gilligan/>
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