Dr Catherine Lester

Dr Catherine Lester

Department of Film and Creative Writing
Associate Professor in Film and Television

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My current research focuses on the intersections between children’s culture and the horror genre. My other teaching and research interests include children’s cinema, animation, and representation in film and television.


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education, University of Birmingham
  • PhD Film and Television Studies, University of Warwick
  • MA Popular Cultures, University of Hull
  • BA English and Film Studies, University of Hull


I completed my PhD at the University of Warwick in 2016, which explored horror films made for children in Hollywood cinema (available to read here). I was also a sessional tutor at Warwick from 2014-2018, and at the University of Worcester from 2017-18. Prior to doctoral study, I obtained a BA English and Film Studies and MA Popular Cultures at the University of Hull, before taking a brief sojourn into publishing in the areas of children’s books (Random House Children's Publishers, My Little Big Town) and academic journals (Taylor & Francis).


  • Introduction to Film (Year One)
  • Film Theory and Criticism (Year Two)
  • Children’s Film and Television (Year Three)
  • Film Studies Dissertation (Year Three)

Postgraduate supervision

I am particularly interested in supervising projects on the intersections between the horror genre and children's media and/or animation. I will also consider projects in the broad areas of children's media, horror, genre studies, animation, and representation in any of the above.

I am currently supervising or have recently supervised postgraduate research projects on topics including: motherhood in 21st century horror films; non-binary representation on television; contemporary Spanish horror cinema; parenting on film. I am available as an internal and external examiner.

Please note that I am not a creative practitioner, and I will generally not consider supervising Creative Writing projects.


My primary research area is horror films for children in Hollywood cinema. This was the basis of my PhD thesis and subsequently my first monograph entitled Horror Films for Children: Fear and Pleasure in American Cinema, published by Bloomsbury in 2021. The introduction is available to read for free. My journal article on children's horror for Velvet Light Trap (2016) was awarded runner-up for Best Doctoral Student Article 2018 by the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies and was short-listed for Screen’s Annette Kuhn Essay Award 2017.

My recent and current research continues to explore the intersections between children, horror and cult texts. This research includes projects on children’s horror television, race and childhood in horror cinema, and various activities relating to the British animated film Watership Down (1978). This work on Watership Down began with a symposium in 2018 which explored the production, aesthetics, reception and ongoing cultural legacy of this landmark of British animation. This developed into an open access edited collection which was published by Bloomsbury in 2023 as part of the Animation: Key Films/Filmmakers series. The collection was recipient of the Honourable Mention for Best Edited Collection from the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies Awards in 2024.

I am also generally interested in issues of spectatorship, aesthetics, value and representation (especially of the intersection of childhood with other identity categories) in children's cinema, horror and animation.

I am Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded Youth & Horror Research Network, which commences in September 2023.


Recent publications


Lester, C 2021, Horror Films for Children: Fear and pleasure in American cinema. 1st edn, Bloomsbury Academic. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/horror-films-for-children-9781350135260/>


Lester, C 2016, 'The children’s horror film: characterizing an “Impossible” subgenre', Velvet Light Trap, vol. 78, pp. 22-37. https://doi.org/10.7560/vlt7803


Lester, C 2023, The People Under the Stairs at the intersection of Black horror and children's horror. in C Waddell (ed.), ReFocus: The Films of Wes Craven. ReFocus: The American Directors Series, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 177-189. <https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-refocus-the-films-of-wes-craven.html>

Lester, C 2021, Giving kids Goosebumps: uncanny aesthetics, cyclic structures and anti-didacticism in children’s horror anthology series. in S Abbott & L Jowett (eds), Global TV Horror. Horror Studies, University of Wales Press, pp. 121-136. <https://www.uwp.co.uk/book/global-tv-horror/>

Lester, C 2019, Frozen hearts and fixer uppers: villainy, gender, and female companionship in Disney’s frozen. in AM Davis (ed.), Discussing Disney. John Libbey & Company/University of Indiana Press, Bloomington, Indiana, pp. 193-216. <http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?cPath=1037_5888&products_id=810027>


Lester, C (ed.) 2023, Watership Down: Perspectives On and Beyond Animated Violence. Animation: Key Films/Filmmakers, 1st edn, Bloomsbury Publishing. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501376955

Book/Film/Article review

Lester, C 2019, 'Conference Report: ‘Gothic Feminism presents Women-in-Peril or Final Girls: Representing Women in Gothic and Horror Cinema’, 25th-26th May 2017', Revenant, no. 4. <http://www.revenantjournal.com/contents/conference-report-catherine-lester/>

Other contribution

Lester, C 2019, Review: Frozen II. Fantasy/Animation Research Network. <https://www.fantasy-animation.org/current-posts/2019/12/6/review-frozen-ii-chris-buck-amp-jennifer-lee-2019>

Lester, C 2018, Frozen (2013), Paratexts, and Female Solidarity in Disney’s Princess Films. Animation Studies 2.0. <https://blog.animationstudies.org/?p=2497>

Lester, C 2018, The Subversive Horror of Fantasy and Animation. Fantasy/Animation Research Network. <https://www.fantasy-animation.org/current-posts/2018/7/16/the-subversive-horror-of-fantasy-and-animation?rq=coraline>

Lester, C 2018, Watership Down: family-friendly BBC version risks losing the power of epic original. The Conversation . <https://theconversation.com/watership-down-family-friendly-bbc-version-risks-losing-the-power-of-epic-original-108699>

Lester, C 2016, Scary Children's Media: What are we so afraid of?. Children's Media Foundation. <http://research.thechildrensmediafoundation.org/catherinelester/scary-childrens-media-afraid-2552>

View all publications in research portal