Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This project looks at how Bill Watterson’s aesthetics and his employment of the comics apparatus, as well as his advocacy for learning the history of the formal development (and decline) of the newspaper comic strip, influence Calvin and Hobbes’ approach to art, family, education, and other cultural topics. By adapting Thierry Groensteen’s theory of spatio-topia, a term describing comics’ ability to provoke meaning from how graphic, verbal, and structural elements inhabit space and relate to one another within space, I demonstrate how Bill Watterson’s quality as a comics artist comes as much from his ability to activate spatio-topic potentials of comic strips as his much-touted imagination and skill as a draftsman. This theoretical overview provides the background to contextualize the strip’s challenging of the increasing alienation of private life in the late twentieth century, while Watterson’s tendency to reject binary framing of issues and his commitment to the polygraphic tradition of comics and graphic artists invests the strips dealing even with these topics with the semiological pliability necessary to unsettle and provoke.



Committee Chair

Costello, Brannon

Available for download on Thursday, December 19, 2024