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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I came to Cambridge in 2013 after completing my undergraduate studies at the University of York, where I read for a BA in English and Related Literature and wrote a dissertation that, somewhat improbably, brought together the work of G. K. Chesterton and Mikhail Bulgakov. I studied for the MPhil in Screen Media and Cultures in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages here—writing my MPhil thesis on the work of director Nicholas Ray—before beginning doctoral study in the Faculty of English.

My PhD project focuses on classical Hollywood cinema, and investigates the ways in which space—specifically the spaces of the built sets which dominated the development of the studio-era style of filmmaking—functions as a bearer of narrative meaning in films of the period. It draws upon architectural theory for insight into the ways in which the organization of space within buildings reflects, and determines, social relations; and hopes to develop a reading of classical Hollywood cinematic space which goes beyond the “two-dimensional”—be that in terms of the aesthetics of set design, or how “screen space” is constructed for the spectator—to understand space and its deeper social and cultural significance as crucial to the telling, reception, and interpretation of these narratives. 

Other academic interests

Outside of my work on classical Hollywood, I am interested more generally in the myriad ways in which writers and filmmakers exploit spaces, places, and architectures in their work: both as structural devices, and as vessels for particular sociocultural associations.

My broader research interests centre around twentieth-century British and American film and literature, but extend into a variety of other contexts. I am equally fascinated by the ways in which narrative and stylistic conventions develop,  and become embedded within and evolve across different forms of cultural production; and in work which pays homage to, pastiches, parodies, subverts, or otherwise troubles or draws attention to such conventions—or, indeed, seems to sit outside of them altogether: a fascination fostered by an attachment to a wide array of texts and contexts, from the television serials of Dennis Potter, to the work of Patricia Highsmith.

Narratology; adaptation studies; genre theory; narrative cartography; the cinematic lives of buildings; social performance and the social production of space; gender, sexuality, and the performative; self-reflexivity; queer theory and queer authorship

Department: English
Supervisor: Prof. David Trotter
College: Clare
AHRC Subject Area: Languages and Literature/Film History, Theory and Criticism
Title of Thesis: The Social Logic of Narrative Space in Classical Hollywood Cinema
 Alice  Thorpe