New Vice-Provost and Chair of the Faculty of Arts Professor Rachel Moseley speaks about her plans as Chair and why it’s such a positive time of growth and change for the arts at Warwick.
A double Warwick alumna, Professor Rachel Moseley became the new Vice-Provost and Chair of the Faculty of Arts in September 2022 when Professor Penny Roberts stepped down. Rachel explains her plans as Chair, why she’s so passionate about the arts at Warwick, and how studying the arts can create thought leadership and social change.
Can you tell us about your current role and your research interests?
I’ve been the Head of Film and Television Studies since 2017, which has recently joined the bigger School of Creative Arts, Performance and Visual Cultures (SCAPVC). It’s been a period of enormous change and challenges with the Research Excellence Framework (REF), Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the pandemic, and now the move into the new Faculty of Arts building (FAB) and SCAPVC. It’s been challenging but I like that!
I describe myself as a critical historian in film and television, so my work looks at television and film past and present, with a critical view. It's about assessment, criticism, and interpretation, but often with a historiographic element.
"It’s been challenging but I like that!"
What have you published recently?
One of my last books called Hand-Made Television was about looking at stop-frame animated television made for children in the 1960s and 1970s in the UK. I’d grown up with this kind of television and wanted to understand the cultural significance of the programmes, and the nostalgia they evoke.
My last book was Picturing Cornwall: Landscape, Region and the Moving Image. I wanted to explore the way the Duchy has been represented in the moving image from the late 1800s to today, to understand how the image portrayed has produced Cornwall’s place-image.
How did you start in this field of study?
It was a bit random! I wrote a piece about 1990s makeover television focused on Style Challenge (which was on morning television) and the evening show Changing Rooms. I looked at how this format had shifted from being a slot in a magazine morning show to a prime-time television programme. This started a whole field of study on lifestyle television and makeover programming.
What are you currently researching?
I’ve got two research key projects starting this year. The first is about the history of British television afternoon drama. I plan to look at a 1970s ITV courtroom drama called Crown Court. I think they’ll have featured stories around topics such as the rise of the women's movement, the civil rights movement, and awareness of domestic violence.
The other project is about melodramas of masculinity in contemporary American television post-911 and Trump, like Chicago Fire, PD, and Med. There’s a new version of the Western coming through, showing a current obsession with what it means to be a man in contemporary America. It touches everything from fatherhood and brotherhood, to vigilante justice and the loss of faith in political and legal systems.
What excites you about your new role?
It’s a positive time for the Faculty of Arts at Warwick. The university has made a massive investment, which is an expression of its faith in the value of what we do and the role of the arts in a comprehensive university. That’s something that we’re not seeing across the rest of the higher education sector.
The University has brought together the arts disciplines in a new building designed explicitly to facilitate interdisciplinary learning. Our job now is to realise this and bring to fruition our potential. I'm excited about being able to lead that; having been a Head of Department for so long I've built a good relationship with the other Heads in my faculty and across Warwick. They know that I’ll represent the faculty and our best interests going forward.
Why is an arts degree valuable?
We’re in a political and cultural landscape where the arts are not valued. We're seeing a decline in the number of students taking arts subjects at A-level and coming through to university. One of the things we've got to focus on in the next few years is telling the world what we do in a way that makes it possible for young people to see themselves studying arts at university. Not just for the love of it, but because it's valuable.
In arts at Warwick, we’re very good at being very involved in activities that widen participation and reach out to groups who are traditionally under-represented within higher education. We need to work with schools, teachers, parents, and children before they choose GCSE options in year nine so they understand the arts as a possible career path and choose subjects that enable that.
We facilitate and train students in the arts to be visionary and make social change. It makes my job worthwhile when a student about to graduate writes a card that says we’ve completely changed the way they look at the world.
" It makes my job worthwhile when a student about to graduate writes a card that says we’ve completely changed the way they look at the world."
What does the new FAB mean to you?
It’s an expression of faith and trust by the University at a moment when colleagues in arts around the world are seeing a reduction in their programmes and funding.
I was part of the conversations about the FAB design. The feeling of openness is exciting, and it’s always busy with students from across the University, not just arts.
Why did you choose to study at Warwick?
I came to Warwick in 1992 as a slightly mature student and knew I’d found my place on the BA Film & Literature, which we still offer. You could choose to keep your course 50/50 or focus on a specialism and by my final year, I knew I was a film and television person.
I went on and did an MA at the University of East Anglia in film studies because, at the time, we didn't really have a focus on film history at Warwick and I needed to learn that discipline. Then I came back to do my PhD Film & Television Studies in 2000 and I was fortunate enough that a post came up in the department in the final year of my PhD. I have stayed ever since, completing my PGCE for HE in 2002.
What would you say was your main takeaway from studying at Warwick?
I'm the first in my family to go to university and it was a really big deal. I was worried I was going to be out of place and didn’t have the cultural and social capital to be part of Warwick, so it was scary. I just didn’t have the social confidence that comes with having money and being from a middle-class background. But none of that was a barrier at Warwick and was actually transformative.
That’s why I’m so invested in the widening participation work we do here. The fact that I could come to Warwick and develop that cultural capital and confidence meant that I learnt that Warwick is genuinely a place for everybody who wants to be here.