Going viral: narratives, metaphors and symbols of a pandemic

Project summary

This study considers socio-cultural, political, philosophical and medical debates as well as primary qualitative research with case studies to produce art practice and an accompanying thesis. The proposed study is anticipated to include art practice as a significant component, the exact proportion to be negotiated. The practice may be fine art, moving or still image, performance or a portfolio across several of these as a body of work.

The pandemic has brought us illness and death, isolation, loneliness, working from home, increased digital engagement, home schooling, social distancing, increased poverty (wealth for some), and upsurges of racism, abuse and mental illness. It has also produced a surge of creativity, both among practising artists and those new to artistic expression.

And, while it undoubtedly has a therapeutic role to play for many, this study aims to produce critical insights into the themes, metaphors, symbols and narratives at play in this ‘new normal’ and how they are shaping our experience, understanding and beliefs. It is anticipated the use of the war metaphors and imagery, conspiracy theories, new or reinforced divisions between people (young and old, good and bad heroes vs the careless or callous, ‘essential’ vs ‘non-essential’) will be investigated and critically appraised.

Research cluster 

Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre 

Entry requirements

You will need a masters degree in a relevant subject such as Fine Art, Photography, Filmmaking, Creative Writing or Performance. Alternatively, you may have a First or Upper-Second (2:1) honours degree and experience in Art Practice.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students.

Project-specific requirements must align with the University’s standard requirements.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Christine Parker (c.parker1@derby.ac.uk) in the first instance for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required.


Self-funded by student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.


Christine smiling
Associate Professor of Art Practice

Christine Parker is an Associate Professor of Art Practice. This means her writing and directing for the screen has achieved international reach and recognition.

Lecturer in Performance

As Programme Leader and Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Costume and Set Design, Dr Penna is bringing over fifteen years of professional performance design expertise and her research to teaching within the learning environment of Derby Theatre. Contributing actively to its mission to engage, empower, inspire and enable the widest possible audience through transformational learning and theatre.