Dr Stephen Mooney

Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing
BSc (Trinity College Dublin), BA (Birkbeck), PhD (Birkbeck)
+44 (0)1483 683121
22 AD 02
Monday 13:00 – 15:00, Tuesday 13:00 – 14:00

Academic and research departments

School of Literature and Languages.


Areas of specialism

Contemporary and Innovative Poetry; Poetics; Avant-Garde & Experimental Film; American Literature; Temporality; Performance; Experimental & Avant-Garde Music; Irish Literature; Gaming and Poetics

University roles and responsibilities

  • Subject Leader for English, Film and Creative Writing
  • Programme Leader - BA English Literature and English Literature combined with Film/Politics/Sociology/French/German/Spanish
  • Poetry Co-ordinator


    Research interests


    Postgraduate research supervision

    My teaching

    My publications


    What happens in a writer’s head before the writing begins and while the writing is taking place? What are the internal processes involved in the thinking up and writing down of imaginative fiction? Cognitive science offers explanations based on scientific observation and measurement that are imminently rational, logical and readily depicted in neatly ordered models. However, none adequately reflect the descriptions contained in writers’ accounts of their lived experience of the creative writing process. These experiential and phenomenological accounts depict a complex, multi-layered process, that is often chaotic, uncertain and unpredictable; the descriptions peppered with references to non-cognitive factors such as intuition, inspiration, felt sense, incubation and the imagination. The two approaches, positivist and phenomenological, express themselves in different languages and thus seldom speak to each other. This thesis seeks to address this gap by facilitating a bridge between them. It proposes a neurophenomenological model of the creative writing process that allows lived experience to sit comfortably alongside contemporary neurobiological research findings, so that each enriches and informs the other. The model, therefore, provides a clear, systemic account of the creative writing process that embraces both its cognitive and non-cognitive aspects within a single, coherent framework that combines third-hand objective research with first-hand subjective accounts of lived experience, thereby yielding deeper insights into, and fresh conceptualisations of, the creative writing process. It thus constitutes an original contribution to the discourse on Creative Writing as a field of study that also has the potential to impact the discourse in a range of related disciplines, such as the visual and performing arts, cognitive science, cognitive psychology, philosophy, phenomenology and neuroscience. The greatest impact of this contribution, however, lies in the scope it provides for cross-disciplinary conversations, particularly those that bridge the long-standing gap between the science and the arts.
    A widely used narrative form in medieval literature is the framed story-collection, where an external narrative frames a collection of interpolated tales. This practice-based PhD in Creative Writing addresses the absence of the medieval framed story-collection structure in modern literature through creative practice and critical enquiry. The project is comprised of two parts: the creative artefact, for which I have written a novel of roughly 100,000 words, and the accompanying critical exegesis of 30,000 words. By considering Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales as a stylistic and structural model, I argue for the medieval framed story-collection structure’s continued relevance in contemporary fiction by demonstrating its potential for reinvention in the form of a modern novel. This thesis presents a methodological framework that can be practically applied to creative writing, consisting of six essential components to consider when modernising the medieval form: the frame, the tellers, the tales, dramatic interplay, stylistic variety, and themes. In my creative component, The Mindsweeper Tales, I demonstrate the application of these components by reinventing Chaucer’s pilgrimage in the form of a murder trial at the Old Bailey during the year 2030, in which the jurors become the narrators of the interpolated story collection. Further to this, I modernise Chaucer’s stylistic variety by engaging alternative narrative forms beyond traditional prose, such as Surrealist text collage and poetic interludes. Finally, I address the importance of socio-political themes in both Chaucer’s work and my own, demonstrating how the stylistic variety can be manipulated to represent the concerns of modern culture. This critical exegesis examines these Chaucerian elements alongside my creative piece to demonstrate how they have been reconceptualised in the form of a modern novel.
    Stephen (Estaphin) Mooney (2008)DCLP (District & Central Line Project) Veer Books
    A subversive journey through London's District and Central lines, where sexual territory, surveillance, and other invasive totalitarian tendencies of contemporary government meet. Truly investigative poetry. Shocking, exasperating, hilarious.
    Stephen Mooney Poetry as Political Response: the War Machine in William Rowe’s Nation, In: Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry Open Library of Humanities
    In A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism & schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari, pose the question: ‘Problem II: Is there a way to extricate thought from the State model?’ in relation to war machine of Nomadology that they propose (that which exists outside of the State as mechanisms of resistance). This is also a question that William Rowe’s poetry of resistance in his collection, Nation, raises and attempts to address. This article examines ways in which Rowe’s innovative poetry, in the context of revolution and resistance, provides a nexus for thinking through the space of the language of change. In this book, Rowe seeks to expose, undermine, reposition and remake the language formulations of imposed, orchestrated and co-optated oppositional stances that the State, and the organs of the State (military, police, finance, justice, politics, religion), foster and reformulate into its own managed space. It proposes a poetic war machine of 'response'. I examine the strategies of resistance that this text brings into being and offers to the reader, both in relation to its own poetic action and to that of other innovative poetries. In so doing, I demonstrate the poetic war machine and its shifting, variable intermezzo spaces as a mode of resisting not just languages and strategies of control, but also the very processes of co-optation that these employ in stealing and negating the spaces of resistance and revolution from the language of the populace and of poetry.
    A McCardle, P Hugill, Stephen Mooney (2009)Shuddered Veer Books
    "Selections from the three bodies of work written during our collective time at the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre (CPRC), Birbeck ... selections of this work also stem from the performances and publications of the "London Under ...
    Stephen Mooney (2016)Innovative Women’s Poetry in the United Kingdom, In: Women: A Cultural Review26(3)pp. 237-253 Taylor and Francis
    This article presents an overview, from a publishing and poetics perspective, of innovative women's poetry in the United Kingdom in the present day, examining some of the issues around access and representation of women's writing in that context. Conferences, festivals and anthologies are considered, alongside information from poetry publishing houses in the field, including a reading of the current scape of innovative women's writing in the United Kingdom from the author's perspective as an editor of Veer Books. The convergence of transgender identity and that of women in key issues of identity space and visibility in terms of innovative writing (both practices and spaces) is also proposed.
    Stephen Mooney, A McCardle, P Hugill (2007)Forum on Women Writers, In: Readings - Response and Reactions to Poetries(2) CPRC Birkbeck
    This text is a transcript of a performed article at the Forum for Women Writers at Birkbeck College in 2007. Aodan McCardle, Piers Hugill and Stephen Mooney represented London Under Construction (LUC) at the forum.
    S Mooney (2008)Stephen Mooney on MJ Weller's Secret Blue Book, In: Readings - Response and Reactions to Poetries(3) CPRC Birkbeck
    Creative Review for the Readings Literary journal of MJ Weller's Secret Blue Book. MJ Weller’s three part Secret Blue Book is a work that very successfully walks the line on the pornographic issue (so to speak); it is clearly not a pornographic work in that it scrutinises, and speaks about, the pornographic gaze, and the language of porn, and is not in this sense reducable to these forms; at the same time it is equally clearly a work of undisguised pornography, utilising as it does, both pornographic content and technique to achieve a form of linguistic pornography that it uses to critique the genre itself.
    Stephen Mooney, G Adair (2010)Gilbert Adair & Stephen Mooney in Conversation, In: Readings - Response and Reactions to Poetries(5) CPRC Birkbeck
    Poet Gilbert Adair and Stephen Mooney in Conversation
    S Mooney (2006)Howl of Resistance, In: Shambhala Sun15(2) Lion's Roar
    British writer STEPHEN MOONEY says we need the Beats’ example of resistance to oppressive conformity more than ever.
    S Mooney (2010)Temporal Unfixity in the Work of Lee Harwood, In: Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry2(2)pp. 37-58 Glyphi
    Lee Harwood’s poetry employs a disjunctive temporality that is both multiple and unfixed in relation to the visuality of the page as well as to the live poetry reading (performance). Cinematic techniques (such as framing and cutting) complicate both the visual and temporal fields of the poem. Paying particular attention to oral recordings by Harwood, I examine the temporal complexity a reading of his poems displays and brings into contact with the reader/listener. Positing a temporal operation that is disjunctive, unfinished and unfixed, I propose an openness in Harwood’s poetry to external and internal temporal factors that engage both the poem and the reader/listener, and link this to background temporality. KEYWORDS background temporality • frame • Lee Harwood • poetics • poetry reading • temporality • visuality
    Stephen Mooney (2018)Stan Brakhage’s Temporality, Disjunction and Reflexive Process, In: Stan Brakhage the realm buster John Libbey Publishing/ Indiana University Press
    Stan Brakhage, as one of the foremost avant-garde filmmakers of the 20th Century (indeed right up to his death in 2003), has offered viewers of his films an expanded sense of what the camera can achieve. His influential development of theories of ‘hypnogogic vision’ and ‘moving visual thinking’ complicate the ways in which viewers of his films experience the visual. What is presented on the screen often reflects a discontinuous sense of the camera as eye. What is seen on the screen, and what can be seen, is not presented to us as a cohesive, non-negotiable actuality, but rather as a complex unearthing of cinematic techniques that relate to the physical aspects of seeing, and that engage with the viewer’s own sense of the visual. This paper seeks to show ways in which Stan Brakhage’s ‘just seeing’, and his achievements in cinematic technique in this area, are useful, in an expository way, in the contextualisation of some of the poetic techniques and strategies used in contemporary poetry in relation to the formulation, and manifestation, of complex temporal structures that invoke a sense of ‘Background Temporality’, or sense of temporal engagement that informs the poetry, and the performance of the poetry, at a given time, in a given place, to a given reader or audience. I will demonstrate, in relation to avant-garde and contemporary strategies of representation, such as those adopted in Brakhage’s cinema, how these poetries can engage with forms of discontinuous visuality, visuality that is fractured and multiply activated, particularly in terms of its temporal operation. Specifically I will look at some examples from the poetry of Lee Harwood, Bruce Andrews and Joan Retallack.
    Stephen Mooney (2016)Ratzinger Solo Contraband
    “That the ex-Pope, Donald Trump, and Han Solo continually survive as characters, despite radical inconsistencies in public declaration and perception, obviously has something sinister about it. What’s the fuel of their survival, if not ‘our’ flesh and blood, translated into code? This book’s operation is un-translation. Back to the real inside the speech. Something is happening which exceeds existing understanding and description of the operation of power, and goes beyond existing critique of language – something other than hyper-reality, hyper-instrumentality, fetishism of reference, degradation of language, ‘post-truth’. Complex meldings of theology of sacrifice, business discourse, political rhetoric give some paths to follow. Ratzinger Solo shows an essential part of what it means to be inside this situation.” William Rowe
    Stephen Mooney (2014)The Cursory Epic Contraband Books
    The Cursory Epic - in which YOU are the Hero! Drawing on language, imagery and the distinctive "multiple-choice" format employed in eighties' fantasy fiction and RPG, Stephen Mooney's Cursory Epic takes the reader on an socio-political nightmare adventure - from the Shumanti Hills (where the reader will be faced with tricks and fantasy as venture capitalism) to Khare, Cityport of Traps (where every doorway and alley may conceal the Coalition Agreement). Will you secure the Cursory Spellbook required to bring order to the United Kingdom? or will you fall prey to the Seven Serpents? The legendary grasp or is it? In this late modernist epic, YOU are Porky George Osborne (Hero) - and the fate of the Big Society is in your hands! (Oh - and Rihanna Worships the Devil.)
    Stephen Mooney (2016)663 Reasons Why Contraband
    James Ellroy is an eccentric and divisive popular novelist. Since the publication of his first novel Brown’s Requiem in 1981, Ellroy’s outré ‘Demon Dog’ persona and his highly stylised, often pornographically voyeuristic and violent crime novels have continued to polarise both public and academic opinion. This study considers Ellroy’s status as an historical novelist, critically evaluating the significance and function of voyeurism in his two collections of epic noir fiction The L.A. Quartet and The Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy. Using a combination of psychoanalysis, postmodern and cultural theory, it argues that Ellroy’s fiction traces the development of the voyeur from a deviant and perverse ‘peeping tom’ into a recognisable, contemporary ‘social type’, a paranoid and obsessive viewer who is a product of the decentred and hallucinatory, ‘cinematic’ world that he inhabits. In particular, it identifies a recurring pattern of ‘ocularcentric crisis’ in Ellroy’s texts, as characters become continually unable to understand or interpret through vision. Alongside a thematic analysis of obsessive watching, this project also suggests that Ellroy’s works - particularly his later novels - are themselves voyeuristic, implicating the reader in these broader narrative patterns of both visual and epistemophilic obsession. While principally a study on Ellroy’s work, this thesis also attempts to situate his texts within the broader contexts of both the contemporary historical novel and our pervasive ‘culture of voyeurism’. This thesis will therefore be of interest not only to Ellroy critics and readers, but also to scholars of both contemporary fiction and contemporary cultural studies.