Wellcome Trust PhD Student
Film Studies Department
King's College London
Nursing and Identity: Crossing Borders.
The representation of nurses in American, British and Italian feature films.
Professor Ginette Vincendeau (Film Studies Department)
Professor Anne Marie Rafferty (Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery)
Women's cinematic representation
Feminist Film Theory
Since the origin of the profession, the image of the female nurse has been associated to a range of diverse and often contradictory values in popular imagery. Evidence of this is significantly offered in film, starting from the silent era. My PhD examines the representation of nurses in a corpus of over 200 feature films released from the 1910s up to the present, its foundational question being to interrogate why these professional women have come to embody such varied and contrasting modes of femininity, as to become a relevant case-study in terms of womanly stereotypes. Moving on and differentiating itself from existing scholarly works on the topic – especially that of Philip and Beatrice Kalisch, Julia Hallam and David Stanley – my study concentrates on American, British and Italian cinemas, and focuses on the cinematic genres which have offered the most prolific depiction of nurses: biopic, melodrama, the thriller and comedy – and on how the prevalence of these genres changes over time. Film Studies and Nursing marking its multidisciplinary nature, my investigation's theoretical framework accordingly spans feminist film theory, the major vehicle in conducting my textual analysis, as well as other, related research areas, informing and underpinning my progressive comparative arguments: from the social history of nursing and cultural history to gender, psychoanalytical and cultural studies. Besides widening the knowledge on a subject so far only partly explored, and making a contribution to the development of several research fields – not least the Medical Humanities, a recently established area of study, examining medicine-related issues from a humanities perspective – the cross-cultural character of my research, the first one dealing with the Italian context up to date, also allows me to expand the current scholarly debate on the representation of nurses to the influence that different national contexts have exerted on the depiction of these professionals as characters in feature films.