Research title: The construction of horse point of view: strategies and implications of film representation of horse characters

PI: Bianca Friedman (Graduate Teaching Assistant, English and Creative Arts, Edge Hill University. 

Current supervisory team: Claire Parkinson (DoS), Martin McQuillan (supervisor)

My PhD project focuses on how horse characters point of view is depicted in live action films, specifically films that are also adaptations. My projects aims to examine the aesthetic, theoretical and material implications of these fictional representations. While operating within the broader fields of Cultural Studies and Critical Animal Studies, my methodologies include Film Analysis, Queer Studies and Adaptation Studies. I also refer to Animal Performance Studies to think about animals as actors.

In one of my chapters, I focus on three film adaptations of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) that engage with the representation of horse point of view: James Hill’s 1971 film, Caroline Thompson’s motion picture from 1994 and Ashley Avis’ 2020 adaptation. These case studies are particularly significant because of the impact that the novel had on human-horse relationships, on its adaptations and on subsequent horse stories, both literary and film. My research maintains an animal-centred reading which enables me to evaluate how horse agency, labour and subjectivity (for which I consider horse communication and relations) are depicted. By applying a combination of theoretical frameworks of film analysis, animal studies and queer studies as my methodologies, I discuss how these aspects and some key episodes of the novel are differently portrayed in each adaptation and I reflect on the role played by medium-specific choices. This analysis allows me to formulate considerations on anthropomorphism for each film and to identify and trace the development of different horse identity constructions with specific and recurring traits, which I acknowledge as culturally and contextually influenced.