Airship Captains, Pith Helmets, & Other Assorted Brassy Bits: Steampunk Personas and Material-Semiotic Production

Matthew Hale


Steampunk is an aesthetic and ideological system that revolves around the appropriation, (re)creation, and (re)design of select aspects of the documented past. Steampunk is a generic complex. It is a form of literature and thus narrative, a design aesthetic, and a mode of material production and consumption. Within this work, the author explores the relationship between materiality and textuality within steampunk and suggest that material-semiotic hybridity, that is to say the ongoing processes through which stories and objects mutually inform, delimit, or shape one another, is central to the genre’s “form-shaping ideology” (Bakhtin 1984:92). In doing so, the author suggests that materiality (in other words, substance) and textuality (or concept) are neither separate, nor are they pure categorizes, but that they are, in fact, entangled and co-productive forces.


Steampunk; Cosplay; Fandom; Semiotics; Hybridity

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