In March 2023, Dr Gemma June Howell was awarded with a PhD in Creative & Critical Writing from Swansea University. The PhD consisted of two parts: a hybrid poetry novel and a supporting exegesis.


As a contribution to feminist epistemology, my PhD research was an emancipatory undertaking, seeking to unearth discrepancies between social ontology and the historical realism of working-class people’s lives. The novel is an experimental, hybrid novel encompassing two distinct literary genres which interlink technically, introspectively, and thematically. The principle narrative is a polyphonic tribute to working-class people of different ages, genders, races, and sexual orientations, living in the margins of post-industrial neoliberal Britain. The principal narrative is then bookended by concrete poetry in a punk graffiti style.  

This experimental structure not only allows for a deeper, more nuanced exploration of hidden narratives but seeks to draw experiential links concerning economic poverty, stigmatisation and marginalisation developed during crucial periods of social change in the contemporary history of Britain. Inspired by the principles of fusion fiction, my novel has multiple starting points in a variety of narrative voices and literary styles, and it encompasses the poetic to polemic; social realism to magical realism; melodramatic and comedic –- all of which not only bolsters character and plot development but also fortifies the novel’s non-conformist message. While tracing the creative becoming of the central character, Girlo Wolf, the story brings to life five generations of familial relationships, with adjoining friendships and acquaintances and is an exploration of the rich and diverse lived experiences, illuminating the past origins and present conditions of discrimination, marginalisation and subjugation of working-class women in the UK.

The full exegesis is now available to read here.
Words by Gemma June Howell Design by Swansea Street Artist, Slug.