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Screen Narrative Representations of Serious Illness

Project Description

Project reference number - GSBS-2019-107

This PhD project arises out of discussions concerning the limited range of representations of serious illness in film and TV narratives. For example, stroke, despite being a leading cause of disability in the Western world, has almost no presence in contemporary screen narratives. The situation is even worse with media depictions of obstetric and gynaecological issues; mainly because of the socio-cultural resistance to showing the female body as being less than ‘perfect’.

The aim of this project is to map existing narrative representations of illnesses on screen such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and gynaecological/urogynecological conditions as well as to develop a series of recommendations, via research involving consultation with health professionals, for improving future narrative representations of serious illness on screen. Representative texts to be analysed may include the following: films Philadelphia (1993) and the recent Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) for depictions of AIDS; BBC TV series Bodies (wr.: Jed Mercurio, 2004-6) for gynaecological issues; works of screenwriter Dennis Potter for psychological explorations of serious illness (psoriatic arthropathy: The Singing Detective, BBC TV 1986; cancer: Karaoke and Cold Lazarus, BBC TV and Channel 4, 1996); the single TV drama Care (BBC TV, 2018) for stroke.

Frederike Van Wijck, Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation within the School of Health and Life Sciences at GCU, will act as a consultant on the project.

The project directly relates to the following aspects of GCU’s research strategy: (i) Inclusive Societies and (ii) Healthy Lives and in particular to the theme of ‘Social Justice, Equalities and Communities’ focusing on inclusiveness, identity and cultural citizenship with reference to socio-cultural analysis of media practice and the enhancement of the evidence base for future initiatives and interventions in this field; as well as to public health, in terms of the management of long-term conditions.

Supervisor Research Profiles

Director of Studies: Dr. Helena Bassil-Morozow
GCU Research Online URL:

2nd Supervisor: Prof. John Cook
GCU Research Online URL:

This project is available as a 3 years full-time PhD study programme with expected start date of 1 October 2019

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying.

How to Apply

To apply for this project, use the following link to access the online application form, as well as further information on how to apply:

Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview within four weeks from the closing date.

Please send any other enquires regarding your application to:

Funding Notes

Exceptional candidates will be put forward for the scholarship competition. The Scholarship packages available include fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

For further details on funding see View Website

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