Dissertation Title:

The Varieties of Comic Book Experience: Reading Comic Books as Mystico-Visionary Texts


Amy Joan Slonaker

Date, Time & Place:

April 24, 2024 at 2:00 pm
Hyflex defense


This study compares contemporary comic books to historical examples of esoteric and religious texts in order to evaluate how comic books might operate as mystico- visionary texts. Mystico-visionary texts are texts that seek to catalyze the author’s own experience of mystical revelation within subsequent readers of that text. By finding similarities between contemporary comic books and examples of religious and esoteric texts from medieval times through the 19th century, this study focuses on how the engagement of imagination and image plays a role in religious experience such that religious experience can be understood as a “co-created” event. This dissertation’s textual analysis relies on Jeffrey J. Kripal’s notion of “comparative mystics,” whereby a tensive mystical-critical approach is used to consider and compare texts. This approach entails a two-part analysis that first employs a critical- historical lens before engaging a second, “gnostic” lens which provides ways to think about comic books as mystico-visionary texts from a place outside the limits of either science or religion. Three such “gnostic” lenses or theories are employed in this study’s comparative analysis: Jeffrey Kripal’s “Super-Story” and “mystical hermeneutics,” and Arthur Versluis’ “hieroeidetic knowledge.” By applying these gnostic theories to a comparison of comic books and historical mystical texts this study utilizes a gnostic approach to support the idea that comic books can function as mystico-visionary texts.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology, I, 2017
  • Chair: Dr. David Odorisio
  • Reader: Dr. Erik Davis
  • External Reader: Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal
  • Keywords: Comic Books, Imagination, Comparitive Mystics, Jeffrey Kripal, Jodorowsky, Al Hartley