Dr Laura Stephenson

Dr Laura Stephenson

I am a Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of Westminster as well as Course Lead of the BA (Hons) Film. I aim to bring together the oft-divided worlds of film theory and practice, by linking screen and psychoanalytic theory with creative and practical skillsets and experiences.

Originally training as an editor for film post-production in New Zealand, I went on to post-graduate study at Honours, Masters and Doctoral level. During this time I continued to work part time in the industry in pre-production roles including development producer, ethics adviser, script editor and festival adjudicator.

Available for supervision of film & television Doctoral candidates in the areas of psychoanalysis and trauma studies, medical humanities, and gender.

Available for media interviews/expertise.

I have two academic research areas: psychoanalytic trauma studies and equality in the creative industries.

Both of these research interests are broadly driven by an interest in the human condition as experienced and depicted through screen (film/television) texts.


My first monograph, Cinema, Suffering and Psychoanalysis: The Mechanism of Self explores mental suffering as an inherent aspect of the human condition. My research refutes the notion that psychological disorder and psychological health exist as a binary, instead recognising that what has traditionally been pathologised, may instead be viewed as variations on human identity. 


I push into new philosophical territory by applying Lacanian psychoanalysis (the mirror phase, the Imaginary / Symbolic / Real) in conjunction with modern medicine's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (widely used to classify psychological symptoms & diagnose). 

Psychoanalysis and modern psychological practice is rarely combined in arts & humanities research - it occupies a contentious juncture and is part of the growing field of 'medical humanities'. I intend to continue in this field with research which examines adaptability, survival and the suffering subject's relationship with their own corporal reality; I find that screen characters work as exemplary case studies for explorations of transformation.


My interest in creative industries inequality began with undergraduate and Masters research projects which sought to unpack representations of femininity in commercial advertising and fiction screen content. This textual analysis diversified into industry practice and ethics in the wake of the #metoo movement, when it was acknowledged that historic issues of power-imbalance impact the content produced as well as the experience of those working in the industry. I worked with creative organisations to generate a Code of Conduct which protects all workers from unethical practices, and I have integrated this industry experience into my teaching and curriculum design. 

More recently my interest in equality research has broadened to include divisions of class, race and culture, and I have subsequently become Lead Researcher of an inclusion and diversity project called 'Screen Futures'. I am very conscious of the barriers which prevent individuals in the UK from seeking careers in the arts sector. Too often those who lack the economic security, a familial role-model or the 'cultural capital' to feasibly imagine a sustained career in the arts shy away from even applying to drama schools and films schools. 

The Screen Futures project (launching July 2024) is an open-access online platform which provides information about what higher education film departments look for in a successful undergraduate appliction for BA Film/Television degrees. This online hub is designed to encourage greater diversity in those who apply (and are accepted on) screen degrees at UK universities. This research aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 10 - 'Quality Education' and 'Reduced Inequalities'. It is my hope that this hub can be expanded on to incorporate content for other creative industries degrees (fashion, photography, graphic design) and performing arts (music and drama). 

Sustainable Development Goals
In brief

Research areas

psychoanalysis, trauma, memory, corporeal reality, human condition, conscious/unconscious, Lacan, screen studies, cinema & television, ethics, equality, human rights and medical humanities

Skills / expertise

Practice-theory integration and Close textual analysis

Supervision interests

Psychoanalysis and trauma studies, Memory and affect theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis , Medical humanities, Gender representation in media texts, Gender equality in creative industries and Ethics and equality in creative industries practice
Finalist: Most Innovative Lecturer, 2022

Times Higher Education Awards

Winner: Exemplary Course Award, 2022

Aberystwyth University

Winner: Individual Contribution Award, 2022

Aberystwyth University