Psychoanalysis and Culture

Apply and key information  


Applications are invited for funded interdisciplinary PhD projects in the area of psychoanalysis and culture. Culture in this context refers to cultural objects, specifically film, art, literature, or music. Proposals are sought that make use of the Kleinian and/or British Independent traditions of psychoanalysis to analyse an aspect of our emotional and unconscious experience with cultural objects. Applicants must be familiar with one or both of the aforementioned psychoanalytic traditions and demonstrate their knowledge in their application.

Projects might be textual in nature or employ psychosocial studies methodologies for the collection of research data. Psychosocial studies focuses on the inter-relation between the subjective and unconscious aspects of experience together with the social and cultural contexts in which we grow up and make our lives. Textual projects will make use of psychoanalysis to theoretically analyse an aspect of one of the following cultural forms: film, art, literature, music. Psychosocial studies projects will make use of psychoanalysis, together with a psychosocial qualitative methodological approach, to collect and theoretically analyse research data, examples include, the free association narrative interview, the reverie research method, the biographic narrative interpretive method, the visual matrix, the social dreaming matrix, the socioanalytic interview, psychoanalytic observation methods, or case study methods.

Proposals that are particularly sought include the following:

  • Textual  projects that employ Kleinian and/or British Independent psychoanalytic  thinking to theoretically examine an aspect of film, art, literature, or  music.
  • Textual  projects that explore and theoretically analyse references to cultural objects  and experiences in clinical writing produced within the Kleinian and/or  British Independent traditions of psychoanalysis.
  • Psychosocial  qualitative projects that consider what might happen unconsciously when  audiences engage with one of the following: film, art, literature, or music.
  • Psychosocial  qualitative projects that investigate psychoanalysts’ and psychoanalytic  psychotherapists’ engagement with cultural objects in their private lives, and  the possible implications of this for clinical practice.
  • Psychosocial  qualitative projects that analyse visitors’ experience of engaging with  cultural spaces, for example, art galleries or cinemas or concert halls or  museums.

The primary supervisor will be Dr Noreen Giffney, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and a psychosocial theorist. Noreen is happy to hear from potential applicants and discuss any ideas or questions they might have.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 1500 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 70%
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Equal Opportunities

The University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applicants from all sections of the community, particularly from those with disabilities.

Appointment will be made on merit.

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

The following scholarship options are available to applicants worldwide:

  • Full Award: (full-time tuition fees + £19,000 (tbc))
  • Part Award: (full-time tuition fees + £9,500)
  • Fees Only Award: (full-time tuition fees)

These scholarships will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance) and will provide a £900 per annum research training support grant (RTSG) to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Please note: you will automatically be entered into the competition for the Full Award, unless you state otherwise in your application.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £19,237 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

Recommended reading

Noreen Giffney, The Culture-Breast in Psychoanalysis: Cultural Experiences and the Clinic (Routledge 2021).

Salman Akhtar and Stuart Twemlow, eds. Textbook of Applied Psychoanalysis (Routledge 2018).

Andrew Asibong, Post-Traumatic Attachments to the Eerily Moving Image: Something to Watch Over Me (Routledge 2021).

Caroline Bainbridge and Candida Yates, eds. Media and the Inner World: Psycho-cultural Approaches to Emotion, Media and Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan 2014).

Jill Bennett, ed. The Big Anxiety: Taking Care of Mental Health in Times of Crisis (Bloomsbury 2022).

Jill Bennett, ‘Visual Communication and Mental Health’, Visual Communication, online first article (2022): 1-25.

Jill Bennett, Lynn Froggett and Lizzie Muller, ‘Psychosocial Aesthetics and the Art of Lived Experience’, Journal of Psychosocial Studies 12.1-2 (2019): 185-201.

Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Jane Milton, Penelope Garvey, Cyril Couve and Deborah Steiner, The New Dictionary of Kleinian Thought (Routledge 2011).

Adam Blum, Peter Goldberg, and Michael Levin, Here I’m Alive: The Spirit of Music in Psychoanalysis (Columbia University Press 2023).

Simon Clarke and Paul Hoggett, eds. Researching beneath the Surface: Psycho-Social Research Methods in Practice (Routledge 2009).

Anne-Marie Cummins and Nigel Williams, eds. Further Researching beneath the Surface, Vol. 2: Psycho-Social Research Methods in Practice (Routledge 2018).

Luís Manuel Romano Delgado, Psychoanalysis and the Act of Artistic Creation: A Look at the Unconscious Dynamics of Creativity (Routledge 2023).

Lynn Froggett and Noreen Giffney, ‘Knowing from the Inside’ in Jill Bennett, ed. The Big Anxiety: Taking Care of Mental Health in Times of Crisis (London: Bloomsbury 2022), pp. 41-54.

Glen O. Gabbard, ed. Psychoanalysis and Film (Routledge 2001).

Mark Gerald, In the Shadow of Freud’s Couch: Portraits of Psychoanalysts in Their Offices (Routledge 2019).

Steven H. Goldberg and Lee Rather, eds. Opera on the Couch: Music, Emotional Life, and Unconscious Aspects of the Mind (Routledge 2022).

Gabriela Goldstein, ed. Art in Psychoanalysis: A Contemporary Approach to Creativity and Analytic Practice (Routledge 2013).

Paola Golinelli, Psychoanalytic Reflections on Writing, Cinema and the Arts: Facing Beauty and Loss (Routledge 2021).

Ludovica Grassi, The Sound of the Unconscious: Psychoanalysis as Music (Routledge 2021).

George Hagman, ed. Art, Creativity, and Psychoanalysis: Perspectives from Analyst-Artists (Routledge 2017).

Wendy Hollway and Tony Jefferson, Doing Qualitative Research Differently: A Psychosocial Approach, 2nd ed. (Sage 2013[2000]).

Roger Kennedy, The Power of Music: Psychoanalytic Explorations (Phoenix Publishing 2020).

Gregorio Kohon, ed. British Psychoanalysis: New Perspectives from the Independent Tradition (Routledge 2018).

Annette Kuhn, ed. Little Madnesses: Winnicott, Transitional Phenomena and Cultural Experience (I.B. Tauris 2013).

Merav Roth, A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Reading Literature: Reading the Reader (Routledge 2020).

Michael Rustin, Researching the Unconscious: Principles of the Psychoanalytic Method (Routledge 2019).

Desy Safán-Gerard, Chaos and Control: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Unfolding Creative Minds (Routledge 2018).

Kalina Stamenova and R.D. Hinshelwood, eds. Methods of Research into the Unconscious: Applying Psychoanalytic Ideas to Social Science (Routledge 2018).

Patricia Townsend, Creative States of Mind: Psychoanalysis and the Artist’s Process (Routledge 2019).

Paul Williams, John Keane and Sira Dermen, eds. Independent Psychoanalysis Today (Routledge 2012).

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 26 February 2024

Interview Date
mid March 2024

Preferred student start date
16th September 2024


Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Dr Noreen Giffney