Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Susan Vanderborg


The representation of women in the fiction of Neil Gaiman is a topic that seems to obsess scholars, critics, fans, and (likely) the author himself. It is imperative that closer scholarly attention be paid to the figure of the muse, a figure defined in contemporary culture by her representability, as she appears across Gaiman’s works. This thesis traces the evolution of m/Muses or muse-like figures in the fiction of Neil Gaiman, arguing that the short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” imagines an empowering evolution for those who are objectified or silenced by the assumption that they are muses. Through close reading that yields an atypical interpretation of the 2006 short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” collected in Fragile Things, this thesis demonstrates a crucial evolution in Gaiman’s depiction of women or girls as muses or muse-like figures. This thesis explores the “Calliope” issue of The Sandman and its Netflix adaptation, The Graveyard Book, and the short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” which complicates and evolves the figure of the muse as presented in previous fiction by Gaiman. Additionally, these works critique or dismiss the figure of the masculinist Poet. “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” is invaluable in any discussion of the feminist nature of Gaiman’s works. The futuristic and fantastic depiction of girls as viral alien poetry who might infect those who communicate with them (re)empowers those typically depicted in art and reendows supposed muses with active voices.


© 2023, Leanna Ashley Herbert

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