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Dr Lisa El Refaie

Dr Lisa El Refaie


School of English, Communication and Philosophy

+44 (0)29 2087 6338
3.61, John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


My main teaching and research interests are in visual and multimodal forms of communication, with a particular focus on metaphor.

I am the author of Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures (2012), which was shortlisted for the prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2013 (Best Scholarly/Academic Work category).

My second research monograph, Visual Metaphor and Embodiment in Graphic Illness Narratives (2019), is out now with Oxford University Press.

Since 2015 I have been collaborating with Sofia Gameiro at the Cardiff School of Psychology. Together, we have designed a drawing workshop method (DrawingOut) that encourages people affected by invisible diseases (such as diabetes, infertitlity, endometriosis, and ME) to express their experiences through visual metaphor. Such diseases are not immediately apparent to other people and are thus often not taken seriously enough.

We created a website,, that makes DrawingOut available to individuals who are unable or unwilling to attend a workshop (funded by an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account). The website also provides detailed guidelines and materials for individuals or organisations who would like to run their own drawing workshops.

Together with my colleague Michelle Aldridge, I have recently completed another ESRC-IAA funded impact project to develop enhanced visual tools for people with learning disabilities to express their feelings and preferences in group situations. All the materials are available here.

I am part of the Centre for Language and Communication Research.


I joined Cardiff University in 2005. Before that, I worked as a Lecturer in German at Plymouth University.

I did my PhD (‘Flooding Fortress Europe’: Metaphor and Visual Rhetoric in Austrian Newspaper Discourses about Asylum Seekers) at Bradford University, and before that I completed a PGCE in secondary education and an MEd in Education and the Media.

I am originally from Vienna, where I studied Media and Journalism, and worked for several newspapers and news agencies. This inspired some of my earliest research projects, including on Austrian press politics in the interwar period (1936-1938), media representations of the controversial contemporary Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek, and (for my PhD) verbal and visual metaphors in Austrian press reports about asylum seekers.






  • El Refaie, E. 2016. Analysing metaphors in multimodal texts. In: Semino, E. and Demjén, Z. eds. The Routledge Handbook of Metaphor and Language. Routledge Handbooks in Linguistics London: Routledge















Undergraduate: Understanding Communication (SE1116), Visual Communication (SE1373), The Graphic Memoir (SE1409)

Postgraduate: Multimodality (SET010)

I also regularly supervise both undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on topics relating to my teaching and research expertise.

Apart from my current research interests outlined in the Overview section, I have also been involved in a number of other projects, including the following:

From 2005 to 2007, I led a British Academy funded research project that explored young British people's interpretations of newspaper cartoons, Editorial Cartoons and Geopolitical Perceptions (in collaboration with the Human Geographer Kathrin Hörschelmann from Durham University).

From 2012 to 2015, I collaborated with WhizzKids United, an international NGO based in South Africa, using comics drawing workshops to encourage teenagers to express their thoughts and feelings about HIV and Ebola, and to share important health messages with their peers. 

From 2015 to 2016, I was involved with a Welsh Crucible-funded pilot study (led by Sofia Gameiro at the Cardiff School of Psychology), which explores the use of drawing workshops as a way of investigating and disseminating findings about the infertility experiences of Black and ethnic minority women in Wales. The project won the Welsh Crucible/Learned Society of Wales Award for the Best Collaborative Welsh Crucible Project 2011-2015, as well as being shortlisted for the Wales Social Research Awards 2017 (Innovation category).


On the Ebola comics project with WhizzKids United:
BBC News [web], 12/11/2014
Wales Online [web], 14/11/2014
The Independent, 13/11/2014, p. 13 and online
BBC Radio Wales’ ‘Good Evening Wales’, broadcast 12/11/2014
Western Mail, 13/11/2014, Education Section, p. 11.

2-part interview for the Cardiff Book History Blog on the genre of graphic memoirs and my work with WhizzKids United (2/2/2014 and 9/2/2014)


I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

  • Alternative comics and graphic novels (including part-creative projects)
  • Visual and multimodal metaphor
  • Political cartoons
  • Visual and multimodal communication in any context/medium/genre

I am currently supervising four PhD students:

  • Supervisor (100%) for Sabrina Toumi - Political Cartoons of Mass Protest in North Africa
  • Co-Supervisor (50%) for Tara Lucy Risby - The Casual Observer and the Notion of the Quotidian in Comics (Part-creative PhD)
  • Co-Supervisor (50% AHRC DTP-funded) for Lucienne Spencer - Let’s Talk About Psychiatric Illness: Understanding Psychiatric Illness through a Phenomenology of Speech Expression

Past projects