The representation of nurses in American, British and Italian feature films

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The female nurse’s image has been associated historically with a range of diverse and often contradictory values in popular imagery. Evidence of this is amplified in film. This thesis examines the representation of nurses in a corpus of over 250 feature films, from silent to contemporary cinema. Its foundational question is interrogating why these professional women have come to embody such varied and contrasting modes of femininity, to such an extent that they have become a particularly rich case study for the study of female stereotypes – and, accordingly, for the representation of gender, class and race issues. Building on existing scholarly work on the topic – especially that of Beatrice and Philip Kalisch, Julia Hallam and David Stanley – my study concentrates on (North) American, British and Italian cinemas, and focuses on the cinematic genres which have offered the most prolific depictions of nurses: biopics, melodrama, the thriller and comedy – and on how the prevalence of these genres has changed over time. Film Studies and Nursing mark its interdisciplinary nature; feminist film theory informs the textual analysis, and cultural and gender studies underpin areas in my comparative analysis. Besides expanding knowledge and the corpus of studies on its specific subject, the thesis makes a contribution to the medical humanities. The crosscultural character of my research adds the Italian context, and expands the current scholarly debate on the representation of nurses to the influence that different national contexts have exerted on the depiction of these professional women as characters in feature films.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAnne Marie Rafferty (Supervisor) & Ginette Vincendeau (Supervisor)

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