Elements of ritual, myth, and subversion in works of Graphic Medicine

  • Andrew Godfrey-Meers

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This PhD has established a framework for understanding the formal and cultural connections between comics, ritual, monomyth, and quest in the context of an emerging field that has come to be known as Graphic Medicine. It will demonstrate the way in which these different forms deal with experiences of embodiment, space, memory, and time, with an emphasis on the way in which the distinct formal tensions of the comics medium allow for these states to be critically examined and subverted. This subversion and critical exploration is particularly suited for considering the way in which these states are experienced differently and are controlled in illness, disability, and medical treatment. The unique contribution to knowledge offered by this project lies in its consideration of the ideological struggles inherent in ritual, monomyth, and quest to cut through what has until now been a largely positivist evaluation of Graphic Medicine as a genre and a field.

    This thesis will suggest that the treatment of illness and disability, both medically and in culture and society, acts as a form of ritual, and representations of such rituals in comics, whilst positioning themselves as subversion, reclamation, and transformation, must still contend with hegemonic elements. By applying Victor Turner’s theories on ritual structure, Butler’s theories on performativity and interpellation, Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, and Frank’s model of the quest narrative I will demonstrate how works of Graphic Medicine enact this subversion and offer new possibilities for living within this framework, both for the authors of these works and the readers, whilst at the same time reinforcing medical hegemony.

    This thesis will also look at the way the scholarly discourse surrounding Graphic Medicine reinforces ritualistic and mythic elements of quest and transformation. By drawing on criticism of these mythic models alongside criticisms of the medical humanities and Graphic Medicine I will consider the possibility that an individualistic medical model might be reinforced in these works and in the field itself. This has been done through primary textual analysis of comics as well as secondary literature.
    Date of Award2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorChris Murray (Supervisor) & Laurence Grove (Supervisor)


    • Graphic Medicine
    • Ritual
    • Myth
    • Quest Narrative
    • Disability
    • Illness Representations
    • Health
    • Illness
    • Autobiography
    • Comics
    • Comics studies
    • Medical humanities
    • Narrative medicine
    • Medicine
    • Disability Studies
    • Joseph Campbell
    • Arthur Frank
    • Critical Medical Humanities
    • Critical Disability Studies

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