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Melissa Oliver-Powell



Melissa Oliver-Powell joined the department in 2021 as a Lecturer in Film and Literature. She is a comparative film scholar with a background in modern languages and a particularly passionate focus on intersectional feminist and queer theories.

Melissa received her PhD in Film Studies from UCL in 2018, funded by a Graduate Research Scholarship, with a thesis on the absent mother in mid-twentieth-century British and French cinema. Melissa researches and has published on a range of European, African and American cinemas and is particularly interested in examining films and film movements within their socio-political contexts. Her first book, Pepsi and the Pill: Motherhood, Politics and Film in the Sixties, is due to be published with Berghahn Books in 2022. She has also published articles and book chapters on a range of topics, including reproductive rights in the French New Wave, the feminist film practice of Agnès Varda, gendered labour and race in post-independence Senegalese cinema, reproductive justice and the welfare state in British social realism, and mother-blame in the films of John Hughes.

Before joining York, Melissa lectured for three years in film and English at the University of Exeter, where she taught on a range of topics in screen studies and literature, including film theory and aesthetics, histories of American cinema, intermedial adaptation, feminist critical theories, queer film and television, digital screen cultures, and games studies. At York, Melissa teaches across MA and BA programmes within the department, including the MA Film and Literature.

Melissa was the first in her family to go to university and is committed to supporting accessibility across all areas of teaching and academic practice.



Melissa’s research takes a particular interest in collisions between representations of motherhood and moments of political rupture in world cinema. She focuses particularly on Western European, Francophone African and transnational film. Her work has appeared in Feminist Studies, Modern and Contemporary France and French Screen Studies. She also has a chapter in the ReFocus volume The Film of John Hughes, and a further chapter forthcoming in a Palgrave Macmillan handbook Reproductive Justice and Literature, which adopts a reproductive justice framework to examine working-class motherhood and the British welfare state in Ken Loach’s social realism.

Melissa’s first monograph, Pepsi and the Pill: Motherhood, Politics and Film in the Sixties, will be published with Berghahn books in 2022. The book seeks to refine popular understandings of film and politics in 1960s Europe to show how the reimagination of motherhood and the relationship of women to the private and ‘national’ family were crucially at stake throughout the era’s major political questions. It focuses in detail on a number of areas, including consumerism and mass-production, abortion and reproductive rights, neo-colonial racism and migration, and sexuality and queer kinship structures. Melissa is currently developing a new long-term project on Dissident Kinships, which investigates the queering of the family and the engagement of contemporary British, European and transnational filmmakers with European welfare policy.


Melissa welcomes research students interested in many areas of film and literature, especially topics related to representations of motherhood, family and kinship; film, politics and protest; European cinemas; West African cinemas; film theory and aesthetics; queer screen cultures; all areas of intersectional feminist theory and representation.



Melissa teaches on the core first year modules Approaches to Literature I: Writing Modernity, and A World of Literature II: Empire and Aftermaths. She also lectures on the second year module Critical Practice.


Melissa convenes and teaches on the core module for the MA Film and Literature, Film/Literature Encounters. She also designs and convenes the MA option module, Auteures: Gender, Power and Authorship in Film and Literature. 

Contact details

Dr Melissa Oliver-Powell
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +4 (0)1904 3356