The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: English Studies: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Matt Barton

Second Advisor

Michael Dando

Third Advisor

Christopher Lehman

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Otherworld, Journey, Animation


Voyages to the underworld, upperworld, and worlds aside have historically populated global literary and theological traditions. Any analysis of an otherworld voyage must take into consideration the deeply set theological origins of this trope. However, in addition to the more traditional underworld, upperworld, and Purgatory voyages there exists a fourth type of otherworld journey: the fantastic. The fantastic otherworld journey utilizes many of the conventions of these other journeys, but differs in its agenda. The purpose of the fantastic otherworld journey is not to convert, but rather to appeal to the imagination. Cartoon Network’s Over the Garden Wall (2014) is a contemporary example of a fantastic otherworld journey. The miniseries offers an extended exploration of a uniquely Americana otherworld, referred to in the show as the Unknown. Over the Garden Wall is concerned less with the leaving-and-returning narrative of more traditional otherworld journeys, and more with a being-and-returning narrative structure instead. While more traditional otherworld journeys hinge much of their emphasis on the character’s departure from the commonsense reality and arrival in and navigation of the otherworld, OtGW opens in the in-between: with two boys lost in the woods. By analyzing the otherworld voyaging tradition through an animation studies lens, the otherworld becomes a shared audiovisual space in which protagonist and spectator experiences intersect. Examining this intersection through Slavoj Žižek’s concept of “anamorphosis” and Scott McCloud’s concept of “closure” reveals how the animated otherworld, and more specifically the Unknown, participates in and diverges from the traditional otherworld journey.


I would like to start my acknowledgments by giving immeasurable thanks to my thesis advisor and committee chair, Dr. Barton. Thank you for lending me an absurd number of books from your personal library to help with my research and for agreeing to meet with me on a weekly basis until this project was completed. I would not have been able to finish this thesis without your guidance. I would also like to thank Dr. Lehman for sharing his vast knowledge of animation and animation studies. His insights provided me with much of the important historical context that informed my research. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Dando for keeping my research grounded in the present and for always asking the tough questions regarding the implications of my research.

Thank you to my parents and sister who have always supported my personal, academic, and professional goals. Your unconditional encouragement throughout my graduate school experience helped me tremendously.

Finally, thank you to my dear friend Katherine (Katie) Spalding who first introduced me to Over the Garden Wall and who continues to spark my interest in all things [other]worldly.