Tag Archives: Foucault

Thesis Review Part Two: Superheroes, rhizomes, representation and ideology

Welcome to part two of my thesis autopsy, where I pick apart the first draft of my PhD and try to remember just exactly what it was I was trying to study when I began. As always, this is the blog and not the thesis itself so while there’s a lot of references in what follows its also likely to slip into a more conversational style. Let’s just jump straight in.

My thesis began with two broad questions: what could the development of the superhero tell us about posthumanism, and how did readers of superhero comics relate to the posthuman? In Part One of this thesis review I pointed out that answering those questions first required clarifying the epistemological and ontological assumptions underlying them. So it was that Part One introduced several concepts borrowed from Delueze and Guattari that served as the theoretical guide for undertaking this research project. In this part I want to re-introduce Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome (touched on briefly in part one) and how it differs from traditional models of thought and culture.

 These ideas will then be illustrated through a discussion of the filed of Comics Studies as rhizome, and also how many scholars approaching the superhero have relied on structuralist analyse (often accompanied by an ideological critique). Such approaches, whether positive or negative in their final reading of the ‘meaning’ of the superhero, are presented as arboreal or tree-like. I argue that such approaches can be characterised as Humanist. The rhizome is then offered as an alternative, Post/Humanist model for thinking about superheroes.

The article then goes on discuss how Foucault’s notion of discourse operates within a rhizome. Several theoretical (and occasionally methodological) objections are raised to move comics analysis away from questions of representation and identity politics, and an argument put forth for the production of a rhizomatic cultural history of the posthuman superhero body.

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Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave

Hello Humans.

Here to introduce this post is Pinhead from Hellraiser:

In a throwaway aside in his review of Brian Yuzna’s From Beyond (1986) in this month’s Sight and Sound the ever-incisive Kim Newman writes:

From Beyond is worth revisiting for its ambitious themes-it takes the torch from Videodrome and passes it to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, prompting sociopsychological musings on why exactly cosmic horror in the 80s was always yoked to sadomasochistic dress-up.

Naturally I thought, “Somebody need to write about that! I’m going to do it right now!” Several thousand words later I never really pinpointed why the 80s were especially conducive to the conjunction of sadomasochism and cosmic horror, or even if that’s really the case upon closer inspection. However, I do think Kim Newman’s on the money in as much as there remains a good case to be made for establishing a connection between cosmic horror and S and M. Both, I want to argue, offer ‘limit experiences’ that mirror one another as in the alchemical rule that the microcosm (human body) is a mirror of the macrocosm (universe). The bondage practitioner and the protagonist in cosmic horror are both taken to extremes of experience that open up new forms of consciousness. The article concludes by arguing that such “limit experiences” need not always end in evisceration as they do in many horror films. There are also narratives in which the iconography of fetish clubs (if not the practice) is adopted as a form of liberation from threats to reality, as in The Matrix and Return of the Living Dead 3.

Before reaching that final destination though we must embark upon a strange journey that takes in H.P. Lovecraft, Michel Foucault, Hellraiser, Nietzsche, Alisteir Crowley, and the X-Men and more along the way. It is also a companion piece of sorts to my previous post Posthuman Ecstasy: Long Live the New Sex which also dealt with new forms of posthuman sexuality in horror films. Continue reading


Thesis Review Part One: Assemblages and Rhizomes

Hello you! There’s been no blog posts for a while. Comedy and academia have been eating up my time. In a few days time (Friday 15th to be exact) the world premier of Woodward and Jeffery: Laughter on the Outskirts will be on at the Leicester Comedy Festival. This looming comedy deadline has had the added benefit of forcing me to go full pelt at completing a draft of my thesis beforehand. (UPDATE: It’s been and gone and I wrote about it here).

It’s been a long three years, and its not over yet. But with a full initial draft of my snappily titled thesis Producing and Consuming the Posthuman Body in Superhero Comics finally in the bag, now seems a good time to present some of the ideas from it on the blog. A ‘thesis review’ where the monster’s still dying corpse can be dissected and unimaginable, as-yet-unnamed organs extracted from its still-warm carcass and held up to the light: “Now look what we have here”, I will say, rubbing the ungodly creature’s black blood on my lab coat.  As ever, the reader is forewarned that this is the blog and not the thesis itself, so expect a potentially unpalatable mix of personal literary style and academic writing. Although to be fair if you are still with me after the whole monster autopsy thing then we’ll probably be okay. So lets begin.

In short I set out three and a bit years ago (or perhaps 34) to investigate two related questions. Firstly, how had the figure of the posthuman body developed in superhero comics? Or to put it more accurately, in what ways did the development of the superhero relate to a wider discourse of the posthuman body? A discussion of how the posthuman body of the superhero has developed can be found elsewhere on the blog (here and here) so will only be touched on occasionally in this piece

Secondly, I wanted to know what sense comic book readers made of the posthuman body. For example, did a familiarity with the superhero genre make one more or less amenable to the idea of human enhancement as espoused by Transhumanism? The question of reader-text relationships is addressed briefly below but the more elaborate discussion it requires will have to wait until Part Three of this series. Part Two takes the theoretical concepts presented below and demonstrates the advantages of applying them to the study of superhero comics.

In Part One of this ‘thesis review’ I instead want to present some of the philosophical concepts that informed the approach I took in my thesis to the posthuman body in terms of both theory and methodology. Or to put it another way, the following discussion is about what separates a ‘critical analysis’ or ‘cultural theory’ of superhero comics from, say, reviewing them. Long story short: the questions of how superheroes have developed and what readers get from them are not simple to answer. Or, rather, may lead to a multitude of, often potentially conflicting, answers to those questions depending on the assumptions the questioner starts out with. As such this article lays out my epistemological and ontological framework.

As Voltaire once said, “if you wish to converse with me, first define your terms”.

Ready to define some terms? Let’s go!

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Laughter on the Outskirts is coming!

Hello Humans.

On Friday the 15th of February, 2013 the world trembled as Laughter on the Outskirts made it’s world premier at the Leicester Comedy festival. A rough beast, slouching towards Edinburgh to be born. Over the course of an hour the charming enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in human flesh and skin Woodward and I said things with our mouth-holes and moved our meat-sacks around to entertain the audience. Paradigms were shattered, unthought ideas were thought, the falcon could not hear the falconer, and mere anarchy was loosed upon the world.

At the very least people chuckled and no-one died.

So that was good. I am excited to see how it develops over the course of the Edinburgh Festival in August. That’s right, I said it! Woodward and Jeffery: Laughter on the Outskirts will be playing there every day. More details to follow, but it can’t hurt to start spreading the word now can it? Come along, all of you! It will be free too!

In the meantime I wanted to use this post to talk about jokes. Specifically my joke about the French philosopher Michel Foucault. Not immediate comedy gold, granted. But I was pleased to see th joke finally work properly. or how I’d always imagined it would work in my head even though it never necessarily did.

Michel Foucault

Foucault if he was texting you

So this post will either be an interesting and entertaining consideration of the mechanics of comedy or painfully solipsistic self-examination. Potentially both. But, if you are still with me, I’ll continue. If you’re not with me then I can’t say I blame you, so instead here is a link to a youtube video of giant anconda regurgitating a  cow. It’s pretty amazing. Continue reading


The Avant-Garde meets Peter Parker Part 1: Comic Book Cut-Ups

5. named peter parker-and harry osborn

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of cut-ups, I had some familiarity with the concept from reading William S. Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge but I’d never performed the experiment myself. So this post details my experiment in performing the cut-up technique on one particular comic, The Spectacular Spider-Man issue 183, chosen at random because I’d ended up with an extra copy. The full results can be seen here at my Flickr account or scroll down to the bottom of this post . First of all the history and theory of the cut-up will be outlined, followed by a discussion of its more occult implications. After this outline, I want to relate the technique to Robert B. Ray’s suggestions about using surrealist techniques as a way of theorising film and suggest that the same methods could be applied in the study of comic books. This is not a finely honed theory or methodological prescription however. For now it remains an interesting experiment. That said, the final section will discuss what this particular experiment reveals about Spider-Man. The plan is for this to be the first of several such experiments applying avant-garde artistic methods to superhero comics.

Never let it be said that I don’t know how to have a good time!

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City Cafe Gig 09/04/2012

Haven’t posted anything recently as the thesis has been eating up my time so this is a bit of filler. Here’s the video from the City Cafe  09/04/2012. Still very much a work in progress this one, although I am quite happy with the final couple of minutes. And it’s nice to have a new set. Meanwhile, I have been  working on polishing the five minutes I will have to do at The Stand on the 21st of this month. Very exciting, so I’m determined to make it the tightest, shiniest five minutes I can. Nothing new, just tried and tested stuff for the most part. But in a different order. Saying that, there’s a fair bit of it that has never been caught on film so there should be few surprises if you have had the misfortune to see me before! Come along, bring your friends, etcetera. Upcoming dates can be found below the video.

MAY

Monday, 7th-  Comedy Variety Show@City cafe, edinburgh

Monday, 21st- Red Raw@The Stand, Edinburgh

Monday, 28th- Comedy Variety Show@City cafe, edinburgh

JUNE

Monday, 11th-  Comedy Variety Show@City cafe, edinburgh

Tuesday, 26th-Red Raw@The Stand, Glasgow


Some Random Thoughts on Stand-Up

I haven’t written anything about comedy in a while so I though I should in case people forget I’m a comedian and just think I am posthumanist anarchist academic. Which I am, but I’m a posthumanist anarchist academic comedian. You know, like Micheal Mcintyre.

On that note, I’ve always wondered when do you get to say that you’re a comedian. Is it  A) when you get paid? Or B) from the minute you drag yourself up on stage for another five-minute spot of potential public humiliation, mass apathy, or, if things are going well, actual proper laughs? I’m going to go with option B. Otherwise there’s no point in writing this post.

So anyway, its been a busyish month-for me anyway-of comedianing (that’s what it’s called!) so this is a brief summary and some thoughts which will hopefully be more entertaining than self-indulgent. At any rate as usual everything will be hyper-linked; all the nights I was at are regular and well worth your custom. There are lots of brilliant comedians you’ve not heard of yet out there that you can catch at these nights.

And then there’s me.

(If you haven’t seen me, or need some means of distracting an elderly loved one for five minutes, there are videos of me here) Continue reading


Anarchy and Posthumanism Part 2: The Anarchist as Ubermensch

Part 1 was a brief overview of anarchist thoughts and ideas. This part deals with the links between posthumanism and anarchism (while part 3 deals wth anarchism in superhero comics). These links can be best introduced by consider the role of Nietzsche’s philosophy in anarchist thought. As I’ve written elsewhere (elsewhere being here), that posthumanism as a critical/philosophical position arguably finds its first full bloom in the ideas of Nietzsche. As Spencer Sunshine has written,

There were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of ‘herds’; his anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the State on cultural production; his desire for an ‘übermensch‘ — that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave.” Continue reading