Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Fulton, Christopher

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Gibson, John

Committee Member

Gibson, John

Committee Member

Rhodes, Che

Committee Member

Leidner, Alan

Author's Keywords

semiotics; lacan; hieronymus bosch; creative dissertation


Hieronymus Bosch’s (1450-1516) paintings have long fascinated, intrigued, and mystified viewers. In particular, the Garden of Earthly Delights (c.1500) has generated much discussion and speculation. Bosch’s use of medieval symbols and fantastic images, his preoccupation with sinfulness and Hell, and his dismal view of mankind’s future have long been sources of study and speculation. Not only do art historians ponder his work, but so do social historians, philosophers, creative artists and the general viewing public. There is no definitive interpretation of Bosch’s Garden that explains the power the painting holds over its viewers. By examining various interpretations of Bosch’s works, coupled with a decipherment of the Garden using the Lacan’s theory of the Gaze and semiotics, the author argues that it is not possible for there to be a single, authoritative interpretation of the work. This dissertation shows that semiotics opens new avenues of investigation and interpretation; one where signs have multiple meanings and anxiety in the viewer can ensue. Consisting of two distinct yet interconnected parts: one written, one visual/creative. This dissertation allows for interaction with the painting in two languages. The written part explores how the Gaze draws the viewer into the narrative and discusses how, through semiotics, the creation of meaning is developed on different semiotic levels. The visual/creative section examines the intersections of ekphrasis, semiotics, and clay sculpture through the lens of Hieronymus Bosch’s work. Specifically, this creative portion the lack of ekphrastic interpretations of Bosch’s work in clay sculpture.