The anxious aardvark sees the light divine masculinity in Dave Sim's Cerebus

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Andrew Slade


For most of its existence, detractors of Cerebus -- a comic that details the exploits of an anthropomorphic aardvark who often struggles against women for power -- have accused the comic of misogyny. Certain critics have attempted to answer the charges of misogyny by arguing that Cerebus portrays gender as a social construction, but those critics must ignore crucial sections of the text in order to make such an argument. I attend to Cerebus as a whole by arguing that it critiques feminists for decrying patriarchal aggression even as they use the narrative of masculine conquest for their own benefit. Nonetheless, the text offers its own critique of the narrative of masculine conquest by constructing Jaka as a victim of masculine aggression and by portraying Cerebus as the anxious male. Having exposed the insufficiency of the phallic model of masculinity, Cerebus proposes an alternative conception of gender that is linked to the divine. Finally, the text undermines its own authority as a source of truth, mitigating the concern that it is a hegemonic text. Because Cerebus privileges the notion that gender is a position in a divine grammar, the text argues for a different kind of gender essentialism in which both men and women can participate in masculinity.


Sim, Dave, 1956- Cerebus Criticism and interpretation, Masculinity Comic books, strips, etc, Masculinity in literature, Sex role in literature

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Copyright © 2011, author