Will Stanford Abbiss

PhD Student in Media Studies

Heritage and Post-heritage: Connecting institutional developments to the style, form and genre of British television period drama of the 2010s

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


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/Masterpiece, 2010-12), Dancing on the Edge (BBC, 2013), The Crown (Netflix, 2016-present), The Living and the Dead (BBC/BBC America, 2016), Dickensian (BBC, 2015-16) and Parade’s End (BBC/HBO, 2012). 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 to create a defined critical framework. Close analysis of these dramas allows my research to explore the status of historical depictions amidst the institutional changes of the current era of television; I consider my case studies’ developments of aesthetic style, series/serial form and genre characteristics, establishing their place amongst the innovative television dramas of the decade. My project thus makes the case for period drama’s continued importance in the academic field of television studies, exploring the impact of the present-day contexts in which they are made. It also proposes that its case studies are important productions in the history of British television drama, despite the scarcity of scholarly investigation in some cases.


Will began his PhD study at Victoria University of Wellington in September 2017. He was Co-Vice President of the PGSA between 2018 and 2019, has represented the postgraduate student community on multiple boards and committees, and has tutored on the media studies programme at 200- and 300- level. His research has been published in the Television & New Media journal (2019), with other forthcoming publications arising from his doctoral thesis including a chapter in the Moments in Television anthology series (Manchester University Press). He has spoken at international research conferences in Denmark (2018) and Australia (2019).