Imagining the Bugfolk: Insects and Anthropomorphism in Popular Culture

Dodd, Adam (2008). Imagining the Bugfolk: Insects and Anthropomorphism in Popular Culture PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Dodd, Adam
Thesis Title Imagining the Bugfolk: Insects and Anthropomorphism in Popular Culture
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-10-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor A/Prof Frances Bonner
Dr. Joan Leach
Total pages 258
Total black and white pages 258
Subjects 420000 Language and Culture
Formatted abstract

Anthropomorphic portrayals of insects in popular culture reflect ongoing debates and uncertainties about the nature of human beings and their place within the environment. This thesis examines anthropomorphic portrayals of insects in popular media from the early nineteenth century to the present day. It shows how the codes of anthropomorphic representation that developed in conjunction with popular microscopy during the nineteenth century have continued to shape the portrayal of insects in popular culture. Nineteenth-century books about insects refined a literary style conducive to the description of settings and events existing outside the normal perceptual parameters of the reader. The popularity and descriptive limits of this style, along with advances in printing methods and photography, led to an increase in production and distribution of insect imagery. The public fascination with insect imagery inspired many cinematic portrayals of insects that, continuing into the twentieth century, advanced the codes of anthropomorphism already established by preceding texts. Central to these anthropomorphic portrayals is the ‘otherworldly’ status of the insect, a status ensured by its location in the so-called ‘insect world.’ Hence, insects have come to inspire a range of otherworldly beings, from the nineteenth-century fairy to contemporary representations of extraterrestrial beings. The popularity of these figures, in turn, has shaped conceptions of insects themselves. Studying these figures provides an opportunity to better understand how human-insect relations are shaped by culture, and thus to interrogate how human identity itself arises from, and is guided by, cultural practices that seek to engage with the natural world. By foregrounding the ways in which the insect has come to represent the otherworldly and the imaginal, it becomes possible to begin to alleviate psychological barriers to ecological realities, and in particular, the ecological reality of the insect’s place as the most biologically prolific species on Earth.

Keyword Insects in literature
Anthropomorphism in literature
insects, anthropomorphism, popular culture, visual media, entomology, microscopy, cinema, aliens, fairies

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Created: Wed, 24 Jun 2009, 19:37:58 EST by Mr Adam Dodd on behalf of Library - Information Access Service