Will Stanford Abbiss

PhD Student in Media Studies

Gilded Mirror: The construction and interrogation of British cultural identity in post-heritage television drama of the multiplatform era

Supervisors: A/Prof Trisha Dunleavy, Prof Harry Ricketts (English Literature Programme) & Dr Cherie Lacey


My doctoral thesis looks at television drama of the ‘multiplatform’ era, examining the cultural impact of period drama productions. My project is structured around six case studies of British television drama that display an innovative and questioning approach to the past: Upstairs Downstairs (BBC, 2010-12), Parade’s End (BBC, 2012), Dancing on the Edge (BBC, 2013), Dickensian (BBC, 2015-16), The Living and the Dead (BBC, 2016), and The Crown (Netflix, 2016-present). I consider these dramas’ shared characteristics of interrogation, subversion, subjectivity, self-consciousness and ambiguity as emblematic of a ‘post-heritage’ perspective on history, expanding upon Claire Monk’s (1995) initial categorisation. Close analysis of these dramas further suggests the status of historical depictions within the technological and industrial changes that are characteristic of the present era of television, in terms of conceptual design, production and reception. My project thus makes the case for period drama’s continued importance in the academic field of television studies, as productions shaped by the present-day contexts in which they are made. It also proposes that its case studies are important productions in the canon of British television drama, despite their shared scarcity of scholarly investigation to date.


Will began his PhD study at Victoria University of Wellington in September 2017. He previously studied at the University of East Anglia (BA) and the University of York (MA). He is an executive member of the PGSA, and a tutor in the media studies programme.