Dr Rhiannon Marks tells us about the inspiration behind her most recent publication, a volume of creative literary criticism on the short fiction works of Mihangel Morgan.
This summer, mid-lockdown, I published my latest volume of literary criticism: Y Dychymyg Ôl-fodern: agweddau ar ffuglen fer Mihangel Morgan (The Post-modern Imagination: aspects of Mihangel Morgan’s short fiction). This is a volume of creative criticism – on the one hand it explores the work of the highly talented literary figure, Mihangel Morgan, but it’s also a creative work in its own right, telling the fictional tale of a University lecturer called Dr Mari Non. This book therefore experiments with techniques which are normally found in the world of fiction in order to offer literary criticism which is, I hope, both fresh and attractive to readers.
The inspiration for the book
I have taken a great interest in Mihangel Morgan’s work for many years, and I often discuss his work as part of the modules I teach in the School of Welsh, namely ‘Author, Text and Reader’, ‘Recent Prose’, and ‘Literary Theory and Criticism’.
After all, Mihangel Morgan is one of the most important figures in recent Welsh prose, and he has made an exceptional contribution to the field of short fiction and the novel during the last 25 years.
However, so far there has been no extended study of his work. I therefore made the decision to write a volume giving his prose the attention it deserves.
In 2016, I was invited to spend some time at KU Leuven University as a visiting scholar, where I carried out research into short stories and attended and ran workshops with members of the European Network for Short Fiction Research (ENSFR). This intensified my interest in short fiction, and I decided to focus on analysing eight volumes of short fiction by Mihangel Morgan in my study.
It was quite a challenge to complete the research and I needed to read widely in various fields, since Mihangel is a fast-moving author who experiments with short story form in order to discuss all kinds of topics – from UFOs to robots! At times his work can be considered similar to the post-modernist American author John Barth, in the sense that it undermines realism and pushes the boundaries of fiction. And yet, throughout, he is nourished and inspired by the Welsh literary tradition, which is also the target of his caustic satire.
Indeed, in the fictional worlds of Mihangel Morgan, no-one is safe from this caustic satire, not even some of the traditional ‘greats’ – Saunders Lewis, Kate Roberts and T. H. Parry-Williams – and he invites us to revisit and re-interpret their work in a new light.
Hopes for this volume
My main hope is that this volume offers new interpretations of Mihangel Morgan’s work which will be beneficial to readers of all kinds – including A-level pupils and university students who are studying his work. I hope it will also highlight how innovative Mihangel Morgan’s work has been over the last 25 years, not only as regards his groundbreaking short fiction style, but also as he explores the multifaceted nature of identity, giving a specific voice to gay sexuality in a Welsh context.
A further insight
As part of the Eisteddfod AmGen celebrations I gave an online lecture discussing aspects of the book, and the lecture is available to watch.
An interview with Mihangel Morgan is amongst the interviews available in the resource ‘Crefft y Stori Fer Heddiw’ (The Craft of the Short Story Today), which I was sponsored by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to develop.