Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Literary and Cultural Studies Concentration

Committee Director

Manuela Mourão

Committee Member

Edward Jacobs

Committee Member

Avi Santo


Holy Stitches, Batman, or, Performative Villainy in Gothic/am is an interdisciplinary examination of gothic affect and deviant fashion in the narrative construction of villainy. It asks not just what a villain looks like, but what it means to look like a villain. A villain is a character who consciously and purposefully deviates from standards of normativity in order to pursue their own, often criminal, interests. The signifier of “villain” articulates a different purpose – an adversarial relationship with normativity that guides personal identification. Not exceptional to a gendered cultural system, they are informed by the societies in which they operate, and the cultural literacy of their authors. I argue that the materiality of these characters demonstrates sartorial literacy on the part of creators and audiences alike, and that the aesthetic representation of these villains is essential to the articulation of their deviance. Drawing on cultural history, literary studies, and media studies, I examine the villains of Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Beetle, Lady Audley’s Secret, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Uncle Silas, and Batman, and argue that the narrative dressing of villains is utilized to enforce normative categorical identities, but that these same material displays also challenge restrictive binary identifications of power, gender, and morality.


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