Ruth Gilligan

Ruth Gilligan

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

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.


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.

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Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

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!