Creative Matters

‘The Cruelty Towards Others Like Ourselves… is Difficult to Imagine Here as You Turn to Swim Your Twentieth Length.’ Swimming and Dreaming of Elsewhere with John Berger


  • Jo Croft John Moores University, Liverpool



water, swimming, Berger, Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard


Swimming, like reading, is an immersive activity: words wash away, and words arise. Engaging with writings by critics who are also swimmers, principally John Berger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, this article explores their writings about swimming in relation to how being in water can ‘conjure stories from the water’, and open up particular kinds of reflection and reverie. The fluidity of water spaces creates an imaginary that enables intellectually sensuous dreaming, while the ebb and flow of movements and identifications establish a poetics of swimming as a form of life writing.   

Author Biography

Jo Croft, John Moores University, Liverpool


Jo Croft was a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Liverpool John Moores University, specialising in psychoanalysis, spatial theory, and eco-criticism. She completed her Phd. on ‘Adolescence and Writing: Locating the Borderline’ at Sussex University; and published Our House: The Representation of Domestic Space in Modern Culture in 2006 (edited, with Gerry Smyth). Croft’s sunsequent research centred on ‘material mobilities’ (especially hoarding, beachcombing, gleaning and swimming); these themes are also explored in two earlier articles, in Humanities 7 (2018) and Life Writing 17 (2020). She developed her research using cabinet-based installations, and audio-visual formats. Her short films about swimming have been screened at conferences, and as part of an exhibition about swimming (‘Nofio’) at Aberystwyth Art Centre. Jo Croft died in January 2021.





Creative Matters