UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)

Dr Rachel Morley

Dr Rachel Morley

Associate Professor



Joined UCL
2nd Sep 2013

Research summary

My research interests span the entire history of Russian cinema, from its beginnings in the 1900s to the present day. 

My work on early Russian cinema (pre-1919) has focussed particularly on the representation of gender and the development of cinematic form and language. Fundamentally interdisciplinary, it draws on a broad range of cultural disciplines, including dance, literature, theatre, art history and socio-cultural history. My monograph, Performing Femininity: Woman as Performer in Early Russian Cinema, was published by I. B. Tauris in 2017 and is forthcoming in Russian from Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie (NLO), Russia's leading intellectual publisher, in 2023. Additional research interests in this area include the early Russian film press, and Soviet silent cinema and its aesthetic relationship with early Russian cinema.

I have recently published a chapter, co-written with Serian Carlyle, that offers a critical overview of the representation of abortion in key films made between the early-Soviet 1920s and the Brezhnevite 1980s.

By contrast, my current research project, funded by the award of a two-year Leverhulme Trust Fellowship, examines the work of Russian women filmmakers between 2000 and the present. Focussing on their representation of the personal, social and political experience of being a woman in contemporary Russia, it aims to chart how they represent women’s lives, identities and subjectivities thematically and to delineate how they express their perceptions and sensibilities aesthetically, through particular cinematic devices and techniques. By also foregrounding women who work in roles other than director, often on films directed by men, the project challenges the dominant critical approach to contemporary Russian cinema, which privileges male auteurs and overlooks the contributions of their women collaborators. You can read more about my project in the Leverhulme Trust newsletter, here (p. 6).

My first article connected with this project, titled “The Grinding of Sand on Tiles…”: Forms of Female Subjectivity in Ilya Khrzhanovskiy and Jekaterina Oertel's DAU. Katya Tanya, was published in the open-access journal Apparatus: Film, Media and Digital Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe in June 2022.

I welcome enquiries from postgraduate students interested in researching any period of Russian and Soviet cinema. Students whose PhD research I have supervised have worked on the figure of the production designer (kino-khudozhnik) and the material environment in early Russian and Soviet fiction cinema, 1907-1930 and on genre and youth in films made by the Gor’kii Central Film Studio for Children’s and Young People’s Films (Tsentral’naia Kinostudiia detskikh i iunosheskikh fil’mov imeni Gor’kogo), 1963-1982. 

Teaching summary

SERS0003 Comprehension of Russian (Translation) (BA, Level 4)

SERS0014 Russian Cinema: History, Ideology and Society (BA, Level 4)

SERS0027 Russian Cinema: Men and Women (BA, Level 5)

SERS0047 Contemporary Russian Cinema (BA, Level 6)

SEES0073 The Reflecting Screen: Russian and Soviet Cinema in its Cultural Context,1896 to the present (MA, Level 7) 

CMII0062 Russian Cinema: Epochs and Genres (UCL MA in Film Studies, Level 7)


University College London
Doctorate, Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy | 2016
University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2011
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2001
University of London
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1999
Merton College Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1992


After graduating with a BA in French Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and spending several years teaching French, I began studying Russian on the SSEES ab initio degree programme in 1995, completing here a BA, an MA and my doctoral degree. 

Between 1999 and 2009 I was a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant at SSEES, delivering BA and MA courses in Russian cinema, Russian poetry, Russian language, and Russian to English translation. I have also taught on Russian cinema for the Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Cambridge. I returned to SSEES to take up my present post in September 2013.

I am Co-Chair of the UCL SSEES Russian Cinema Research Group, which organises work-in-progress seminars and hosts talks from scholars working in the field of Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet Cinema Studies at UCL and other British and international universities.

Between 2014 and 2018, I was the SSEES International and Affiliate Tutor, and in this role I provided academic and pastoral support both to SSEES undergraduates whose degrees include a period of study abroad and to BA and MA affiliate students who come to SSEES from partner universities overseas.

I currently holder a two-year Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2020-22), awarded for my project 'Forms of Female Subjectivity in Contemporary Russian Women's Cinema'.