Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This dissertation project works to introduce and interrogate a phenomenon I am calling cartoon corporeality. The phenomenon refers to the varied ways in which cartoons “escape” their usual two-dimensionality through performance, appearing to manifest in physical environments in ways that should be understood as culturally impactful. Cartoon corporeality encompasses different modes of performance wherein the explicit visual presence of a cartoon subject informs an immediately observable physical impact through the body of the performer. I interrogate the phenomenon by focusing on four select modes of cartoon corporeal performance: videogame play, cosplay, theatrical adaptation, and the active weaving of cartoons with physical liveness. For each mode, I select a specific site of interrogation that exemplifies and informs the insights gained throughout the different parts of this phenomenological study: the mobile game Pokémon Go, the annual Japanese animation convention Anime Expo, comedian James Corden’s crosswalk adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and my own 2018 performance production Cue Cartoon. This study was conducted through close readings of existing scholarly texts and media reports into each mode of performance and each site of interrogation, through open-ended qualitative interviews, and through direct critical observational analyses which sometimes included my own on-site experimentation with the modes of performance under investigation. The aim of this dissertation is to argue that cartoons’ apparent escape beyond the screen allows individuals more effectively to access the fluidity, vibrance, and overall expressiveness cartoons offer in order to discover more expansive possibilities for self-expression and self-affirmation.



Committee Chair

Suchy, Patricia