The incel bookclub: inceldom, toxic masculinity and the literary canon

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16392
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 202055406
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • This thesis constitutes an overview of literary discourse within the involuntary celibate, or ‘incel’ forum,, and, by applying an interdisciplinary outlook, considers broadly the way in which literature functions within the discursive space of and the potential consequences of the relationship between popular misogyny– as first understood by Banet-Weiser (2018) – and the literary canon. Considered a relatively modern social phenomenon, the limited existing body of research into the relationship between ‘inceldom’ and popular media is primarily focused on contemporary media and the Internet. Hoffman et al. (2020) consider the role of online communities in radicalising individuals within the incel community, while Palma (2019) evaluates the role of children’s literature in reinforcing entitlement and hate crimes within incel communities. In considering the relationship between online incel communities and literature, this thesis fills a void in the critical field, situating ‘inceldom’ in a longer cultural history that looks beyond contemporary media to map the development of its ideology. The project begins by situating the incel subculture within the wider online ‘Manosphere’, a “loose confederacy” of Men’s Rights interest groups (Ging 2017), providing a brief overview of the origins, ideologies, and key terminology employed by the community. Following this, it identifies the online forum site ( I draw upon for my analysis, as well as the methodology employed to catalogue the literary references made within the forums themselves. Close analysis of these specific ‘threads’ allows for the identification of patterns in references to key texts and characters, as well as the specific beliefs which the texts are said by users to subscribe. This is followed by a close reading of the texts mentioned, drawing comparisons between the claims made in the forums and the primary evidence from within the texts themselves, examining the form and style of their depictions of chauvinism, male supremacy, and nihilism. The project further examines what the community has to gain by identifying themselves with literature in this way, considering the possibility of literature being used as a means of justification and verification of the nihilistic and misogynistic ‘Black Pill Theory’. Referring to notions of cultural capital and the existing scholarship related to canon reform, the thesis finally considers the potential consequences of this relationship between the literary canon and popular misogyny in promoting harmful attitudes throughout society. In addressing these issues, this thesis opens up routes for further research into incel masculinities in literature, filling the gaps left by the existing research into media and inceldom. Additionally, the project offers scope for expansion into a wider consideration of the role of the canon in not only reinforcing historical notions of hegemonic masculinity, but in forming socially acceptable attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and self-image in disaffected young men, particularly within educational settings. Content Warnings: sexual violence, misogynistic language, violent imagery, suicide, references to spree killings.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Kistler, Jordan
  • Boyle, Karen, 1972-
Resource Type
Embargo Note
  • This thesis is restricted to Strathclyde users only.