Environmental Apocalypse in Contemporary Imagination

Project reference number: GSBS-S2018-020-Miller

This proposal would map the imaginative terrain of contemporary attitudes to the natural world and our fears for its future through screen media.

In the 21st Century, audio visual texts (film, TV, online visual media, gaming) are the most popular forms of entertainment and the medium through which our stories circulate. Often narratives spontaneously arise and spread in popularity in response to often unspoken and unconscious concerns and anxieties. Such patterns are discernable through the rise to popularity of certain genres, which demonstrate cultural concerns and anxieties long before they are more consciously articulated. Analytical psychology provides a theoretical context for exploring such complexes from a collective as well as an individual perspective.

One such narrative trope, showing no sign of diminishing in popularity, is the ‘end of the world’. The Walking Dead TV series has been consistently top of global ratings for several years now, with audiences breaking record after record. There is a particularly dystopian turn in teen dramas such as The Hunger Games or How I Live Now, and although spectacular images of environmental disaster have been haunting film since the invention of the atomic bomb in the 1940s, contemporary media (from disaster films to zombies and other dystopian visions), suggest an imaginative, psychological territory deeply concerned with the environment running alongside and beneath the day to day world.

Building on a growing media literature, using concepts drawn both from analytical psychology, such as the cultural unconscious, and eco-criticism in film studies, this project proposes to examine contemporary cultural tropes around environmental anxieties (ecological collapse and apocalypse) circulating through visual media. Such work will help to bring these concerns to conscious realization and encourage a more activist approach to sustainability. Imagining change is the first step towards implementing change.

This proposal would build on analytical psychology as a theoretical framework for media analysis which is growing area of research strength in the department, and make a contribution to the greening of screen media studies.


Ortiz-Hill, M (1994) Dreaming the End of the World USA, Spring Publications

Willoquet-Maricondi, P (2010) Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film USA, University of Virginia Press

Application deadline

The application deadline for October 2018 start is 1st of July 2018.

Research supervisors

Candidates are encouraged to contact the following researchers for further details:

Mode of study

This project is available as a:

  • PhD: 3 years full-time 
  • 1 + 3 route to PhD: Undertaking MRes 1 year full-time + PhD as above


Applicants will normally hold a UK honours degree 2:1 (or equivalent); or a Masters degree in a subject relevant to the research project. Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered. A minimum English language level of IELTS score of 6.5 (or equivalent) with no element below 6.0 is required. Some research disciplines may require higher levels.

Specific requirements of the project

The successful applicant will hold a minimum of a UK Honours first degree (2.1 or above) in media studies , particularly textual analysis, with a background in Jungian theory a benefit, and excellent communication skills.