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Research degrees in Film Studies


See also: the website for the Department of Film Studies

Queen Mary has an active and flourishing research culture with staff working across disciplines and helping to shape the dynamic field of film theory. There are opportunities for graduate students to present their own work at staff-student research seminars and students are encouraged to contribute more broadly to the research culture by organising film studies events. The Department is one of the leading centres for graduate film study in London and benefits also from its close collaborative links with staff and graduate students at several other institutions of the University of London, such as the SOAS, Goldsmiths College, Birkbeck College, Royal Holloway, UCL and King's College London.

From the earliest days of British cinematic history, most British studios were in London. The capital remains the part of Britain where film is most available for study - through the British Film Institute, including the BFI Southbank, National Library and National Archive, which are all a short tube journey away from Queen Mary. The research ethos of the Department of Film Studies is further developed through a lively programme of lectures by distinguished guest speakers, including our public Hitchcock  Lecture series. Past speakers have included Richard Dyer, Douglas Pye, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Christine Gledhill, Richard Allen, Kevin Brownlow, Diane Negra, Laura Mulvey and Annette Kuhn. Talks have also been given by directors José Luis Borau, Karel Reisz, Claude Sautet and Jean-Paul Rappeneau, by Spanish actress Eulalia Ramón, and by Hollywood star Betsy Blair.

In addition to these activities, members of the Department have been responsible for organising major international conferences, including symposia celebrating the centenaries of the births of Luis Buñuel and David Lean, on the life and work of Lindsay Anderson, and on place and space in film. These events are regarded as an integral part of the research culture in film, and introduce MA and PhD students at the College to filmmakers and scholars working in the discipline.

The School of Languages, Linguistics and Film is situated in a modern building on the College's main campus at Mile End, with its own AV facilities, including a state-of-the-art cinema for screenings, lectures and research seminars, a studio space for practical production shooting, and two editing rooms and a sound studio for post-production work. The College library contains an extensive collection of English and foreign language films on DVD and video and offers private viewing facilities to support students' research. Reflecting many years of teaching and research in this area, the library also has a large collection of books and journals on film, and corporate memberships which enable Queen Mary students to use the University of London Library and the British Film Institute Library.

PhD topics researched by recent and current students in the Department of Film Studies include:

  • Female consciousness and film
  • Utopic space and globalisation in contemporary film
  • The influence of Japanese animation on the horror film genre
  • Popular Spanish comedy
  • Film adaptations of literary texts
  • Arthurian Romance and Film
  • Representations of Italianness in British cinema
  • Transnational stars in 1950s cinema: France and the USA
  • The relationship between the French and American film industries

Prospective students are advised to consult the postgraduate selector, Dr. Alasdair King ( about potential supervisors before submitting a research proposal. The Department of Film Studies is interested in receiving applications from prospective PhD students across a wide range of areas. The Department has particular research strengths in the following fields:

Research areas

Cultural history, memory, film archaeology

Staff in the Department of Film Studies have wide-ranging expertise in the fields of cultural history and memory, and have published on topics including photography, oral history, popular memory, trauma and historical reception studies. Current expertise also includes the examination of film through other media such as photography and art, and other technologies such as the telephone, the telegraph and the computer.

Contemporary and classical film theory

The Department of Film Studies, in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, has research strengths in a number of areas of film theory. Staff can offer supervision in research areas which engage with feminist and queer theory, postcolonial theory, theories of performance and spectatorship, theories of embodiment and affect, star studies, ethical theory and trauma theory, and theories of documentary. 

European cinema 

There is a long tradition of research in European cinema at Queen Mary. The Department of Film Studies welcomes research proposals in contemporary European cinema and in specific historical case studies on national and transnational cinemas. The Department can offer supervision in most aspects of British, French, German, Spanish and Italian cinema and can draw on excellent film and book collections in the Queen Mary Library in these areas. With colleagues in the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, we can also offer supervision in Russian cinema.

Genres and Directors

Staff in the Department of Film Studies have considerable expertise in genre and directorial studies. Recent staff publications have included work on romantic comedies, war films, musicals and biblical epics, mafia films, heritage cinema and the Heimatfilm. Directorial studies on Carol Reed and Bertrand Blier have also been published recently by members of the Department.

Hollywood and cinema of the Americas

The Department of Film Studies, in collaboration with colleagues in the School of History and in the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, encourages applications from prospective students with research interests in most areas of American cinema. Research on Hollywood is a significant focus of staff and student interest, and we also supervise research projects on Brazilian, Argentine, Cuban and on other Latin American cinemas.

Space and place in cinema

The subjects of space and place are key interests in the Department of Film Studies. Queen Mary hosted a major conference on Designs for Living: Place and Space in the Cinema in 2005, and more recently a postgraduate conference 'Sites and Sights' in 2011, and maintains a keen interest in questions of set design, film architecture, cinema and the city, representations of landscape and home, issues of exile and border crossing and spatial film theory generally.

Entry requirements

For entry at PhD level, we would normally expect candidates to have an MA or equivalent. The School accepts students for a research degree leading to a PhD of the University of London. Applicants for this degree are accepted on the basis of previous academic performance and subject to the availability of a member of staff to supervise their work. We welcome applications from home and overseas students. As a prospective students are advised to consult a potential supervisor with a draft research proposal before submitting a formal application. You should also include a relevant piece of written work showing your potential for carrying out high level research in your subject area (preferably a final-year undergraduate or MA dissertation), with your application. Completed applications should be sent to the Admissions and Recruitment Office at Queen Mary.

Please also refer to the How to apply section.

For international students, please refer to the International students section on this website.

Further information

Please contact:

Professor Janet Harbord

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