Vessels for the devil: Exploring the rhetoric of the monstrous-feminine in graphic culture

Author Identifiers

Julia Lane


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Stuart Medley

Second Advisor

George Karpathakis


The feminine has long been demonised via popular cultural narratives and in graphic culture. The current state of societal gender imbalance is consistently signified by the visual representation of the feminine as other. This project aims to dissect the feminine in graphic culture, exploring how the feminine comes to be defined as other via the metaphor of the monster. The purpose of this research has been to analyse, identify and respond to the visual rhetoric apparent within and between images of the monstrous-feminine, and also how these images communicate with their audiences. This inquiry is also concerned with the intent of the creators of such monstrosities. As this study is centred around the cultivation of gendered abjection of the feminine, I have employed a Kristevean and feminist body political perspective to unearth rhetorical connections between such visceral representations of the feminine. The creative research undertaken aims to subvert past rhetorics and challenge the use of the monster as an icon of evil within an overly simplistic gender dichotomy. The work aims to playfully question whether monstrosity can be reframed as strength, beauty, and agency within the contemporary visual economy of our increasingly imagistic world. Through this research I discovered that the predominant features that made feminine monsters so terrifying, were the same as those being reappropriated contemporarily to symbolise power and agency.

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