Tag Archives: cartoons

“Visual Ideograph” as rhetorical form (Model Abstract)


Edwards, Janis L., and Carol K. Winkler. “Representative Form and the Visual Ideograph: The Iwo Jima Image in Editorial Cartoons.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 83 (1997): 289-310.

Abstracted by Michael Sorensen

Edwards and Winkler investigate the parodied uses of Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 photograph of six U.S. servicemen raising an American flag during the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima in editorial cartoons.  The authors consider methods of visual analysis like metaphor, genre, and icon in examining the Iwo Jima image in parodies – but find them insufficient because the editorial abstractions only vaguely refer to the original image and do not analogize, represent too wide a variety of abstractions, and deviate away from the photograph’s original composition.  Instead, Edwards and Winkler contest that their concepts of “representative form” and “visual ideography” better explain the functions of these cartoons.  Representative form describes how the Iwo Jima image transcends immediate connotations to a more elusive, abstract meaning in the cartoons.  The authors also extend McGee’s idea of ideography from its function as a means of analyzing texts to a method of examining images.  Edwards and Winkler develop their claim by using a variety of newspaper political cartoons in conjunction with McGee’s four components of ideography.  First, McGee says ideographs must be a common term in political discourse.  The Iwo Jima image is used in cartoons about electoral competitions to standardize discourse for elite and non-elite audiences.  Second, an ideograph must represent a collective action to a goal.  In a visual context, the Iwo Jima image already represents collective action, but Edwards and Winkler show the abstracted modifications to that goal with comics that imply ideas like patriotism and equality.  Third, McGee maintains that ideographs authorize power and make behavior acceptable.  In a cartoon about the Gulf War, for example, the image functions as a comparison for determining the tolerability of the conflict.  Finally, McGee affirms that the previously mentioned judgments are culture-bound.  In the article there is a cartoon of a group of Marines looking up a recruit’s skirt; in an editorial context, culture-bound analysis seeks to determine how society accepts or rejects certain implications.  In their conclusion, Edwards and Winkler suppose that there is value in applying rhetoric used for examining text to crafting a more fluid means of analysis for images. [350 words]


The Irish Dave Chapelle of the 1910s? (model abstract)

[Note: this is my own model abstract of Soper’s article, for purposes of contrast with the two weaker examples from the databases. All the others tagged “model abstract” were written by students and posted with their permission. – PT]

Soper, Kerry. “From Swarthy Ape to Sympathetic Everyman and Subversive Trickster: The Development of Irish Caricature in American Comic Strips between 1890 and 1920.” Journal of American Studies 39.2 (August 2005): 257‐296.

Abstracted by Phillip Troutman

Soper challenges the popular and scholarly conventional wisdom that early twentieth‐century ethnic caricatures were nothing more than blatantly and demeaningly racist in intent and effect. Instead, drawing on recent studies in caricature, minstrelsy, and African‐American popular culture, Soper argues that stereotypes carried meanings that were multilayered, multivalent, and unstable. He researches Irish stereotypes in newspaper and magazine comic strips between 1890 and 1920, revealing six distinctive but often overlapping categories: the “inferior, animalistic, racial type”; the “cultural scapegoat”; “the laughable ethnic fool”; “the clever or wise fool”; the “’useful other’ in the romantic sense”; and “the heroic, subversive trickster” (258). He closely follows three case studies—Frederick Opper’s Happy Hooligan, Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid, and George McManus’s Jiggs—to chronicle a trend towards greater complexity and subversion. He explains this dramatic change by way of three historical developments. First, the format evolved from single-panel gag comics to long‐running multi‐panel series, where character development—and therefore reader identification—were increasingly important; to sustain interest over time, readers needed to sypathize with the characters, not just laugh at them. Second, the shift from local papers to national syndication created an increasingly diverse readership, including more Irish‐Americas, and comics now had to play to a broader middle-ground audience. Third, Irish-American cartoonists themselves eventually found commercial success, sometimes using Irish stereotypes to critique the dominant white culture. In his conclusion, Soper briefly addressses the larger question of whether racist caricatures can ever be fully redeemed. He critiques the “cultural amnesia or naivety” characterizing the unthinking proliferation of racial stereotypes in popular culture; instead, he calls instead for a self‐conscious “revival of playfully ambivalent genres of ethnic comedy” (296).  [272 words]