The Harley Quinn experience: retrogenesis and remediation within a transmedia fictional universe

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This project examines the transmedia entertainment property of Harley Quinn and explores how the franchise maintains the structure of its fictional universe, despite
non-synchronous and contradictory story content.

The study begins with an examination of the canonical theoretical frameworks relevant to contextualising the Harley Quinn property within the landscape of media convergence and differentiates the practices of transmedia and transmodal delivery strategies.

The main body of the study examines recurrent themes within the Harley Quinn storyworlds with an aim of inducing a paradigmatic structural model of the fictional universe and the forces which maintain coherence within it. This thesis argues that the franchise of Harley Quinn - rather than being built on a single synchronised chain of forward moving events - is, instead, built upon the perpetual re-contextualising of previous events. The Harley Quinn property does not provide narrative unity to the consumer but consistently engages in a form of content recycling in which the past traumas of the character - in particular her origin story Mad Love (Dini and Timm, 1993) - are interrogated over multiple timelines, tones, and genres in order to achieve thematic unity through a creative process this thesis calls Retrogenesis.

Through Retrogenesis, the content creators of Harley Quinn consistently reinforce and articulate the Genesis Principle of Affiliation. Rather than support a single co-ordinated storyline which moves the character forward to achieve goals, this principle, instead, allows the property to meditate upon the bicameral nature of Harley Quinn’s morality, sexuality, and sanity, ultimately asking the question: who is Harley Quinn?
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Northumbria University
  • Barron, :Lee, Supervisor, External person
  • Jones, Steve, Supervisor, External person
Award date20 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023


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