Examining the role of the maternal in science fiction films

PhD spotlight | Zoë Moreton


Zoe Moreton

Zoë Moreton is undertaking a PhD researching the role of the maternal in science fiction films to establish what the imagined future holds for women and the maternal function. Zoë is also the PGR Representative, a part-time lecturer and research assistant in The School of Cultural Studies and Humanities.

  • PhD title: Examining the role of the maternal in science fiction films
  • Supervisors: Professor Jayne Raisborough, Dr Katherine Harrison

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to study for this particular programme

It’s fair to say I have taken the ‘scenic route’ to becoming a PhD student. After my BA in Psychology and Media, I took positions in careers service and several colleges in Leeds. A short break to start a family and a stint running my own business working with children led to training to become a primary school teacher. It was this return to study at nearly 40 that reignited my interest in learning, research, and discovery.

This renewed passion was a nagging itch that underpinned my teaching career and eventually it had to be scratched. I left teaching to take up an MA in Interdisciplinary Psychology at Leeds Beckett. It was about halfway through this course that I knew my studies would continue to fulfil a lifelong dream of undertaking a PhD. This was cemented by two WOW moments on this course: one was an essay I wrote about motherhood where I discovered I could be quite vocal on the matter! The second was my final project that looked at female cyborgs in science fiction films. My supervisor for this project signposted me to The School of Cultural Studies and Humanities armed with a proposal that combined these two interests. The rest, as they say, is history.

Image illustrating maternity in science fiction through a pregnant robot

A female cyborg

Why did you choose Leeds Beckett?

Having completed my PGCE and my Masters with the university, Leeds Beckett seemed an obvious choice. The personal approach the university takes is one that appeals to me and how I work. Thinking specifically about the PhD journey, I knew I wanted supervisors that I would work well with and who would develop my skills and passion about my subject. I had meetings with various supervisors at a number of universities but non felt quite right cementing the idea that I needed to stay within the Leeds Beckett community.

What is your research about and what makes you passionate about it?

Many feminist theorists believe that if women can control reproduction or that if they are not required to reproduce then they will be closer to emancipation. Using science fiction film analysis as a lens I examine the construction of the future female and the maternal role to see if this is the outlook that is being imagined for women in a posthuman epoch.

What have been the rewards and challenges of your time here? 

The School of Cultural Studies and Humanities has become my academic home: I have amazing supervisors who have really helped me develop my skills and my writing ambitions, other staff are supportive and genuinely interested in my research and the PhD community is growing in strength all the time.

The school has also offered me the opportunity to teach in the Media department, develop my knowledge of Higher Education by being the Post Graduate Rep, present at conferences and seminars and gain valuable experience as a Research Assistant.

The pandemic offered its own unique challenges in terms of access to resources and a quiet space and time to study. My supervisors remained realistic at the level of work I could manage, and I am now back on track to complete on time.

On a personal level, I think a PhD is an immensely challenging task – as it should be. On the whole I find the process rewarding but there have been many moments when I have needed resilience and commitment to carry on. I have struggled with some theories and concepts and have really had to take my time to develop my understanding. The positive of these testing times is that they have grown me as a person and a researcher.

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