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  • 2022obrienphd

    Final published version, 1.39 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 11/08/27

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Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Anne O'Brien
Publication date11/08/2022
Number of pages252
Awarding Institution
Award date28/06/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English



There are forty-two stories between these covers. Each can be read on its own but taken together they form a reflective narrative. Swallow is a collection that tells its own story of how it came to exist – of the things that were once buried but have been brought to light, of what was unsaid but is now written, of the discomforting thought, of small acts of both despair and hope, of being, of acceptance.

The stories range in length from forty words to over five thousand and are in the main set in Ireland and Denmark. This collection, a mix of creative fiction and non-fiction, is held together by the cold blade of honesty, the voice of a recurring female narrator who is far from home but very much in place – a wild, lonely place. The practice of journal-led writing from which these stories emerged allows for fluidity both in content and form.

Swallow includes an exegesis which explores the issues that have arisen during its creation and shows how, through practice-based research, the collection has been altered by reading, reflection and journal writing.

The following research questions are addressed:
• How do emigrant Irish writers (of whom I am one) use writing to keep alive and together the dispersed and fractured place that was once home? Home is not only the lost country but also a sense of belonging. How does the emigrant writer’s sense of being ‘other’ influence their writing of home?
• How can the practice of journal writing help unlock the subconscious and lead to story? Can journal-led writing facilitate the emergence of new forms of story that might help the reader ‘refine, perceive and process the world.’
• Can we consider journal writing a feminist practice, a place for the unvoiced woman to find expression, facilitating both consciousness raising and self-creation for its practitioners?
• How can new fragmented forms of story sit in a collection with more traditional short stories? How might they be perceived by the reader?

Bibliographic note

Anne O’Brien is a Hennessy New Irish Writer and winner of the Queen Mary Wasafiri Life Writing Prize and the Bath Short Story Award. Her work is published in anthologies and magazines. She has also been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, the RA & Pin Drop Short Story Award, and BBC Opening Lines.