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Jean McNeil

Professor of Creative Writing


She is the author of 14 books & much of her writing has drawn on landscapes, the environment & climate change.







Image for youtube videos on Trying To Stay LightImage for youtube videos on Walter Benjamin (More then a Sign) A film by Diego Ferrari, Jean McNeil and Bernard Arce 2017Image for youtube videos on Exhibition Film Day for Night - Landscape of Walter Benjamin, London 2018



Jean McNeil is a Professor of Creative Writing in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA. She is the author of 14 books and much of her writing has drawn on landscapes, the environment and climate change – and how remote and vulnerable places form us. She has written, for example, on the history of Polar exploration, the cultural history of ice, the colonial history of southern Africa, Swahili culture and the Indian Ocean coast region.

Jean is also a trained safari guide and has explored animal behaviour and ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa. She frequently talks about the blurred lines between fiction and non-fiction. She is originally from Canada. Her work has been shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for fiction and the Journey Prize for short fiction (Canada). Her Ice Diaries: an Antarctic Memoir won the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival Book Competition.

Areas of Expertise

Creative WritingContemporary African LiteratureEnvironmental WritingCreative Non-fictionContemporary Canadian Fiction


Anglia Ruskin University

Ph.D., Literature and Creative Writing


University College London

M.Sc., Social Anthropology


University of Toronto

B.A., English Literature


Specialist in International Relations; Major in English Literature; Minor in Latin American Studies.


  • Chair, Narrative in Climate Change research group: 2020 to present
  • Member, Internal Steering Group, Climate@UEA research pillar: 2020 to present
  • Member, UEA-Latin America Network: 2020 to present
  • Member, Environment, Place and Space Research Network, UEA: 2016 to present
  • Member, Creative Writing Committee and Creative Writing Research Committee, UEA: 2012 to present

Media Appearances

Gilded Cage: A Wealthy White Family in East Africa Faces an Islamist Uprising

New York Times  online


No minority in history has received more literary attention than the white tribe of Africa. When will we tire of the damaged, entitled, drunk, stylish, adulterous and increasingly marginalized whites who merely accessorize a continent of more than a billion black Africans? We’ll have to stop soon — but not before indulging in Jean McNeil’s flawed yet compulsively readable novel. To be sure, “The Dhow House” is no colonial relic.

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New York Times  online


Jean McNeil has written a trinity of books about Antarctica: a novel, a book of poetry and, now, a nonfiction account of the time she spent as a ­writer in residence with the British Antarctic Survey. A wide-ranging hybrid of travel and nature writing, history, memoir, climatology and philosophy, her latest shines with McNeil’s exceedingly precise and supple language.

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Jean McNeil's stunning memoir of home, family and Antarctica

MacLean's  online


Jean McNeil’s latest book, a memoir, recounts her months in Antarctica as a writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, charged with translating complex data on climate change into the compelling stuff of fiction. This stunning and austere icescape exerts a magnetic pull on the author’s imagination, magnifying her lifelong sense of homelessness and desolation.

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Ice Diaries artfully conveys an outsider's account of Antarctica

Toronto Star  online


In case you thought, as I did, that the Antarctic is largely a colourless void, Ice Diaries: A Memoir will set you straight. Jean McNeil, who a decade ago lived for four months on this most isolated of continents, paints a very different picture of a place brimming with colour, rich in its dual character of serenity and threat: “This was our world, at four in the morning: mountains, ice, water, sky, all lit in lava, tangerine, mauve and that dark black-purple of dog’s gums, like a bonfire when the embers have burnt low.”

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Event Appearances

Literature Live, Martin Harris Centre

University of Manchester - 2020  Manchester, U.K.

Discussant with Lyndsey Stonebridge

Being Human Festival - 2019  London, U.K.

Wealden Festival of Nature Writing

2019  Kent, U.K.

Buxton International Festival of Music, Opera and Literature

2019  Buxton, Derbyshire, U.K.

Tribunales de la Justicia

2018  Siena, Italy

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