Ben Saunders

Ben Saunders profile picture
  • Title: Professor
  • Additional Title: Director, Comics and Cartoon Studies Minor
  • Phone: 541-346-0062
  • Office: 273 PLC
  • Office Hours: Spring term: FRI 2pm-5pm
  • Curriculum Vitae



Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby, IDW, 2016 (co-edited with Charles Hatfield).

Do The Gods Wear Capes: Spirituality, Fantasy, and SuperheroesContinuum, 2011.

Desiring Donne: Poetry, Sexuality, Interpretation, Harvard University  Press, 2006 (Selected Finalist for the 2007 Oregon Book Award in the category of General Non-Fiction; also Short Listed by Choice Magazine for Outstanding Academic Title of 2006).

Rock Over The Edge: Transformations in Popular Music Culture, Duke University Press, 2002 (co-edited with Denise Fulbrook and Roger Beebe).


See vita for numerous articles, reviews, and shorter writings on Shakespeare, Donne, and diverse aspects of Early Modern literary culture and contemporary popular culture.

Professor Saunders has also written about music and comics at the pop-culture website, The Hooded Utilitarian. Visit for a complete list of his online writings.


Ben Saunders specializes in two fields: the literature of the English Renaissance; and the history of British and American comics and cartoons.  His first book, Desiring Donne, explored the intersection of spirituality and sexuality in the poetry of John Donne alongside larger questions of literary theory and hermeneutics.  Desiring Donne was shortlisted by Choice magazine as one of the outstanding academic titles of 2006, and also selected as a Finalist for the Oregon Book Award that same year.  His second book, Do The Gods Wear Capes?, focused on modern American superhero comics, arguing that the superhero fantasy can tell us a great deal about about our conceptions of the human, the post-human, and the divine.  Do The Gods Wear Capes has been widely cited in both academic contexts and the mainstream media; the "groundbreaking" chapter on bondage imagery in Wonder Woman comics is often singled out for particular praise. In addition, Saunders has written numerous free-standing scholarly articles on a variety of topics, from the plays of Shakespeare to the Peanuts comics of Charles Schulz, and co-edited a collection of essays on popular music (Rock Over The Edge, with Roger Beebe and Denise Fulbrook).

Since 2009, Saunders has expanded his scholarly portfolio to include curatorial work. He has organized three major comic art exhibitions for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the UO, including a massive tribute to EC comics; and in 2015 he collaborated with Professor Charles Hatfield of CSUN on the largest retrospective exhibition to date on the work of Jack Kirby. (Hatfield and Saunders also co-edited the accompanying catalog-cum-critical anthology, Comic Book Apocalypse, featuring appreciative essays on Kirby by a diverse group of comic-artists, filmmakers, writers, and scholars.)  

An award-winning teacher, Saunders founded and currently directs the University of Oregon Undergraduate Minor in Comics and Cartoon Studies (the first undergraduate minor of its kind in the country). His other teaching and research interests include contemporary literary theory, queer theory, Anglo-American poetry and poetics, and twentieth-century popular music. He used to moonlight occasionally as an actor and musician, and he still enjoys singing and playing with friends and family when the opportunity arises.  


Professor Saunders has given invited lectures at universities and academic conferences both nationally and internationally (including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Denmark), and is a regular speaker at comic-book conventions across the United States.  In 2011 he served as a judge for the Eisner Awards (the comic-book industry Oscars) and in 2012 he was a Special Guest at the San Diego Comic Con.  He is frequently interviewed on radio, television, and for podcasts about matters related to comics culture, and also appears as a talking head in the History Channel documentary, Superheroes Decoded



Book cover for "Desiring Donne"

Desiring Donne, published by Harvard University Press, Ben Saunders explores the critical problem of interpretive desire through the figure of John Donne and some of his most passionate readers.