The Anthropomorphic Body as Genre
: Comics and Fetish

  • Hailey J. Austin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis examines the anthropomorphic body in comics as a site of fetish, desire, and othering in order to understand the use of such bodies to represent or subvert discourses surrounding gender, race, and power. Because the anthropomorphic body itself is a hybrid and a fetish object, and therefore fluid and othered, it can both be treated as a genre and used to analyse certain genre constructions. This thesis situates pulp magazines as the precursors to modern comics genres, arguing that they defined modern genres and bound othered bodies to their normative genre constraints and conceits. Within these genres, the anthropomorphic body reveals that the fears of the normate body are embedded in the representations of non-normative bodies. The anthropomorphic body is a colonised and altered one, but it is also a destabilising presence that is full of tensions and contradictions. This thesis refuses the binary of genre and identity and instead explores the ‘furry’ boundaries of genre through anthropomorphism, revealing fears of blending with non-normate bodies across superhero, erotic, noir and science fiction genres.

This thesis treats the anthropomorphic body as a ‘body genre’ that elicits certain visceral responses from the reader through the fetishization of the anthropomorphic body and other non-normate bodies. The anthropomorphic body opens up further, and sometimes conflicting, interpretations about how genres themselves operate and how specific bodies are treated within genre, revealing the underlying fears of normate bodies, or the ideological and political motivations that postulate a necessary tension between the categories of normate and non-normate, and indeed, may rely upon such tensions to define themselves. This informed interdisciplinary thesis is rooted in comics studies, but also includes several theoretical frameworks and creative practice. Each chapter is followed by a creative work that visualizes the theories discussed in the chapter. These creative pieces demonstrate the ‘messiness’ of arts research and map significant iterative changes in the study.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorChris Murray (Supervisor), Golnar Nabizadeh (Supervisor) & Ana Salzberg (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • anthropmorphism
  • comics
  • fetish
  • Genre
  • pulp magazines
  • transmedia

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