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Lisa El Refaie

Dr Lisa El Refaie


School of English, Communication and Philosophy

+44 29208 76338
John Percival Building, Room 3.61, 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 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2013 (Best Scholarly/Academic Work category).

My second research monograph, Visual Metaphor and Embodiment in Graphic Illness Narratives, was published with Oxford University Press in 2019.

Since 2015 I have been collaborating with Dr. 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.

I am part of the Centre for Language and Communication Research and a member of the research network Cardiff Environmental Cultures, as well as one of the convenors of the Cardiff Comics Storytelling Network and of the GW4 (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities) research community, Rhetoric in Society.

I am also on the advisory editorial board of the journal Visual Communication.







  • 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, pp. 148-162.















Book sections



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:

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).

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. 

I was also involved with a Welsh Crucible-funded pilot study (led by Dr. 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).

Together with my colleague Dr. Michelle Aldridge, and working with local organisations such as Mirus, People First and Innovate Trust (charities supporting independent living), we developed a new visual communication system for people with a learning disability in sheltered accommodation. Our website allows interested parties to access these tools for free. This work was funded by the ESRC impact accelerator fund ('Developing collaborative visual recording techniques for use with adults with learning disabilities').


Understanding Communication (SE1116), Visual Communication (SE1373), Style and Genre (SE1416), The Graphic Memoir (SE1409)

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


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.


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

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

I am currently supervising two PhD students:

  • Co-Supervisor for Jonathan Macho: ‘Another World, This World’: Stylistically Remediating Comics into Prose
  • Co-Supervisor for Christeena Anto: Examining Gender Constructions in Japan through Heisei and Reiwa Era Manga Targeted at Boys (Shōnen) and Girls (Shōjo)