Jean McNeil

Jean McNeil

Professor, Professor of Creative Writing

  • 1.19b Arts and Humanities Building

Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile

Areas of Expertise

Creative Writing, Contemporary African Literature, Environmental Writing, Creative Non-fiction, Contemporary Canadian Fiction, Polar literature and history; Scott Antarctic Centenary; Antarctic literature and history; history of exploration and science, esp. the polar regions; Latin American literature and politics; South African and Namibian literature and history; contemporary North American fiction; the contemporary short story.

Video: Walter Benjamin (More then a Sign) A film by Diego Ferrari, Jean McNeil and Bernard Arce 2017


JEAN McNEIL is Professor of Creative Writing and the author of fourteen books, including seven novels and a collection of short fiction. She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards and has won the Prism International Competitions for short fiction and for creative non-fiction. Her work has been nominated for the Governor General's award for fiction, the Journey Prize, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation National literary awards and the Pushcart Prize (Canada/USA). She was the winner of the 2016 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival's Grand Prize for her memoir Ice Diaries, based on the year she spent as writer in residence in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey. As well as working in Antarctica, she has undertaken official scientific and environmental writing residencies in the Falkland Islands, in Svalbard, and aboard ship-based expeditions to Greenland and across the Atlantic ocean. Multidisciplinary work includes an art exhibition in 2018 on landscape and the life and work of Walter Benjamin, as well as curating and writing the texts for ‘Notes on the Anthropocene’ as part of Barcelona Gallery Weekend in 2020. A short film collaboration with filmmaker and photographer Philip Lee Harvey based on one of her poems, 'Trying to Stay Light' won the short film category at the European Film Awards and a Prisma award in 2020-21. Her novel Day for Night was published in 2021 and won the Gold Medal in Literary Fiction at the Independent Publishers (IPPY) awards in the US. At UEA she is Director of Creative Writing and also International co-ordinator for the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, heading up the International Chair for Creative Writing Africa Year. On the MA, she teaches the optional module The Non Fiction Novel and Prose Fiction Workshop. In 2023 she will be the Inauguaral University of Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSHARC) Fellow in Creative Practice and will be based there and at Australia National University in Canberra. For more information see

 [email protected]





Day for Night, ECW Press, May 2021.

Fire on the Mountain, February 2018, Legend Press, UK.

The Dhow House, Legend Press, UK 2016 and ECW Press, Canada/US, 2017.

The Ice Lovers, 2009, McArthur & Company, Toronto, Canada.

The Interpreter of Silences, 2006, McArthur & Company, Toronto, Canada.

Private View, 2003, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, UK.

Nights in a Foreign Country (collection of stories), 2001, Orion/Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, UK.

Hunting Down Home (novel). Milkweed Editions (USA), 1999; Phoenix House, (Orion/Weidenfeld & Nicolson), London 1996; Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, Canada, 1996



'The Fate of Space,' principal essay for the catalogue of Space at the Centre: London 1994-2007, solo exhibition by Diego Ferrari, Pigment Gallery, Barcelona, opening September 2021.

'Notes on the Anthropocene,' catalogue essay for the exhibition of the same name, Pigment Gallery/Pasaje Montoya, Barcelona Gallery Weekend, September 2020.

Editor and contributor, 'Exile from the Stage' (essay) in Day for Night: Landscapes of Walter Benjamin by Diego Ferrari and Jean McNeil (anthology/exhibition catalogue). Benjamin Editions, London, 2018.

Ice Diaries (memoir/travel), ECW Press, Canada/US, April 2016; UK, 2018.

The Ice Diaries: Antarctic work-in-progress. Limited edition, Arts Council of England, 2006

From the Library of Graham Greene. Rampant Lions Press, Cambridge, UK, Selection of Graham Greene’s annotated books and a long essay on his personal library, 1993



Night Orders: Poems from Antarctica and the Arctic, Smith/Doorstop poetry publishers/Environment Institute Press, University College London, 2011



The Rough Guide to Costa Rica (sole author). Rough Guides, London, 1994-2012

The Rough Guide to Central America (contributor: Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Rough Guides, London, 1997-2007



‘Infinite’ – Co-director and scriptwriter, New Views at the National Theatre,Royal National Theatre, London. 2010-11


Articles, essays and short stories published in literary journals (selection)

'Arboreal', in Women on Nature, ed. Katharine Norbury, Unbound, May 2021.

'Horse People', story in One Life, magazine of Jaguar/Land Rover, October 2019.

'The Kusi,' in The Mechanics Institute Review issue 16: Climate, September 2019.

'Temps Mort' in Winter Garden. London: Flat Time House, 2015.

'The Skeleton Coast,' Prism International, 2013. (Finalist, 2013 Prism International Creative non-fiction competition).

‘Ice Diaries: a climate change memoir,’ Prism International, Vancouver, Canada, spring 2012. (Winner, Prism International 2012 Creative non-fiction competition).

‘The Ice Lovers’ (extract), five poems from Night Orders, in Landscapes of Exploration, Peninsula Arts/University of Plymouth (art exhibition catalogue), 2012.

‘The Road to Digby Neck,’ Writers’ Hub,, September 2011.

Academic articles, reviews and journalism (selection)

‘Disclosure: the ethics of making the private public in prose fiction workshops - some reflections from the University of East Anglia’ in Writing as Dialogue, Haute école specialisée bernoise, (Bern University of Applied Sciences) Biel, Switzerland, and Columbia University Press, New York, USA. November 2018.

‘The rhetoric of prose fiction workshop – an analysis of teaching methods at the University of East Anglia’ in Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa, peer reviewedOfficial journal of SAACLALS (Southern African Association for Commonwealth Literature & Languages), October 2015.

‘The Short Story’ in Body of Work, Giles Foden (ed); Full Circle Press, 2011.

‘Among the elephants’, feature article about desert elephants and conservation in Namibia, (, June 2010.

‘The Speed of Ice’; feature, photographs and poetry; lead feature on paleo-climate research in Greenland for the launch of a new online literary magazine, the Writers’ Hub (, January 2010.

‘On the Short Story’, Foreword for the Mechanics Institute Review, Birkbeck College, London, Autumn 2009.

‘Outlander’, review, The Independent, April 2009.

‘To the Ends of the Earth’, review of Antarctic and Arctic anthologies edited by Francis Spufford and Elizabeth Kolbert, The Independent, January 2008.

‘Slicing the Silence: A Journey to Antarctica’, review of book by Tom Griffiths, The Globe and Mail (Canada), October 2007.


Poetry published in literary journals and anthologies (selection)

'The Land of Letting Go,' in Antarcticness, ed. Ilan Kelman, forthcoming from UCL University Press, February 2022.

'The Skeleton Coast,' chapbook collection, shortlisted for the Poetry Business International Chapbook Competition, 2018.

‘Bush of Ghosts’, The Antigonish Review, Canada, Autumn 2012.

‘Night Orders’ in The North, Sheffield, 2011.

‘Endurance’ Prism International, Vancouver, Canada, 2011.

‘Namibia’ and ‘My Life as a Man’ The Antigonish Review, Nova Scotia, Canada, 2011.

‘Arctic Pilot’, ‘Illulissat’, as part of a feature on Greenland, The Writers’ Hub,, London, 2009.

“You Fall in Love with Orpheus” and “Famine Suite”, The Antigonish Review no 144, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, 2006.


Fine Art collaborations

Co-exhibitor: 'Day for Night: Landscapes of Walter Benjamin'. Fine art exhibition, Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck College, London. 20 September-27 October.

Speaker/performer: Urban Dialogues Symposium on street photography, Tate Britain, 2015.

Script consultant, ‘As the Academy Turns’, fine-art film by Tiong Ang, Manifesta 8 Art Festival, Murcia and Cartagena, Spain, October 2010.

“The City of the Present Continuous” catalogue/exhibition text for a fine art exhibition by Diego Ferrari, Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography, Israel, 2010.

“The Human Face which we will to be Beautiful”, exhibition text for a fine art film by Diego Ferrari, London 2009, OKK gallery, Berlin, November 2010.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Literature, Anglia Ruskin University

Award Date: 4 Jun 2019

Master in Science, University College London

Bachelor of Arts, University of Toronto

External positions

External Examiner, Imperial College London

Fellow, RSA, Regional Studies Association

Fellow, Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

Media Expertise

  • Creative Writing
  • Literature
  • Climate Change

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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