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Local Laughter, Global Polemics

Understanding Charlie Hebdo

Jane Weston Vauclair

Charlie Hebdo became a global name following the tragic events of 7 January 2015 in Paris. Following this, two competing, somewhat reductive forms of commentary on Charlie Hebdo rapidly emerged in the global media. Could Charlie Hebdo effectively be sidelined as a case of egregiously irresponsible and offensive satire, even if the attacks per se were inexcusable? Or could its cartoonists instead be championed as martyrs to free speech, having proved to have a backbone of conviction and courage that had been lacking elsewhere in the media? This article argues that a dual set of tensions have come to the fore through Charlie's vertiginous global exposure. These are tensions between the local and the global, and between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility. It looks to highlight how Charlie Hebdo's contributors have been engaging with these tensions, both in the 'survivor's issue' of 14 January 2015 and in other spaces of commentary.

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Impolite Interventions?

English Satirical Prints in the Presence of the Academy, c. 1750–1780

Danielle Thom

This article examines the reciprocity between satirical and academic modes of image making, and locates that relationship within the context of an emergent bourgeois public sphere. The cultural and commercial imperatives of that sphere enabled its inhabitants to engage with conflicting modes of cultural output, consuming grotesque and bawdy satire as an exercise in political autonomy, while simultaneously emulating 'elite' politeness. In particular, the commercial growth and increasing visibility of satirical prints challenged the polite hierarchy of art as it was understood by the nascent academies and societies of art established in the same period. This process of establishment needs to be re-framed in the context of satirical intervention, and will be examined via two paintings that provoked distinct satirical responses: Benjamin West's The Death of Wolfe and Francis Hayman's The See-Saw. Correspondingly, satirical print culture itself can be reframed in light of its use (and parody) of academic visual tropes and techniques.

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Offshore Desires

Mobility, Liquidity and History in Shakespeare’s Mediterranean

Rui Carvalho Homem

This article probes the ability of Shakespearean drama to provide expressive resources for coming to terms (conceptually, discursively) with current crises. These include both the power games of global finance, and those disasters that ostensibly concern other strands of geopolitics. The article focuses on two plays, The Comedy of Errors and Pericles, the actions of which unfold in the eastern Mediterranean – an area of the world associated, in the late modern imagination, either with mobility as pleasure (mass tourism and its apparatus) or mobility as crisis (disputed territories, the plight of displaced populations). It highlights the close bonds between prevalent modes – satire and farce in The Comedy of Errors, romance in Pericles – and the plays’ distinct strategies for representing human mobility: the sense of agency proper to acquisitive urges, the victimhood of forced displacement.

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Women's Liberation

Swedish Feminist Comics and Cartoons from the 1970s and 1980s

Anna Nordenstam and Margareta Wallin Wictorin

In Sweden, publication of original feminist comics started in the 1970s and increased during the following decade. This article describes and analyses the Swedish feminist comics published in the Swedish radical journals Kvinnobulletinen and Vi Mänskor, as well as in the Fnitter anthologies. These comics, representing radical feminism, played an important role as forums for debate in a time when feminist comics were considered avant-garde. The most prominent themes were, first, the body, love and sexualities and, second, the labour market and legal rights. The most frequent visual style was a black contour line style on a white background, recalling the comics of Claire Bretécher, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Franziska Becker. Humour and satire, including irony, were used as strategies to challenge the patriarchy and to contest the prevailing idea that women have no sense of humour.

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Montagnes Russes and Calicot

Print Culture and Visual Satire in Restoration Paris

Peggy Davis

Restoration-era discourse on the montagnes russes—early roller coasters—reveals how leisure activity could become a lightning rod for perspectives on public space, tensions among social groups, and expressions of patriotism. Eager to profit from the montagnes russes craze, boulevard theaters hosted a number of plays on the subject. Through the buffoonish character M. Calicot, one such comedy—entitled The Battle of the Mountains— caricatured young clothing-trade salesclerks who frequented roller-coaster parks. The play provoked the ire of some of these men, who “waged war” on the Variety Theater, where the play was performed. The conflict in turn sparked satires in print, visual, and other media. These cultural productions both reflected the short-lived mania for roller coasters and shaped attitudes in their own right, all while employing laughter to deal with postwar trauma.

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The Crown and the Crowd

Sublimations of Monarchy in Georgian Satirical Prints

David Morgan

This article attempts to account for an apparently wholesale reversal in the visual satirical treatment of the British Crown and its incumbents during the later Georgian and Victorian eras. Using a range of prints from across the Georgian era, some of which have not hitherto been widely published, I argue that the rise of modern parliamentary politics on the one hand, and the threat of war and invasion on the other, created a satirical environment in which the institution of the Crown became effectively sublimated in terms of popular perception; at the same time, the figure of the king himself, his ‘body natural’, became dissociated from the institution that he nominally embodied, such that he could safely be visually lampooned in the manner associated with Gillray and other visual satirists of his generation.

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Poverty in Freedom versus Opulence in Chains

Satirical Exposé of the Postcolonial Dictatorships in Kourouma's Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote

Isaac Ndlovu

In my examination of Ahmadou Kourouma's satirical 'historiographic metafiction' (Hutcheon 1988: 93) Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote [1998] (2004), I argue that this narrative shows that in postcolonial Africa freedom from colonial rule has resulted neither in privilege nor power for the majority of African citizens. In the novel, Kourouma employs but also subverts the style of donsomana or praise poetry in his satirisation of postcolonial African ways of wielding political power. Largely narrated by Bingo, a satirical griot, the novel adopts a mock-epic mode as a way of acknowledging but also subverting both traditional African and European modernistic conceptualisations of the historical and literary. Among other things, the title of the novel satirises the inadequacy of electoral processes imposed by the Western nations to bring about smooth power transitions and genuine freedoms to the African populace. The novel's title also mocks African rulers for undermining democracy and those who are ruled for their inability to seize the voting opportunities, which in the novel are sometimes presented as moments of genuine civil power, to rid themselves of the emasculating dictators.

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Pranks in Contentious Politics

An Interview with Pauline Pantsdown (AKA Simon Hunt)

Ben Hightower, Scott East and Simon Hunt

There is often a division between scholarly publication and activist knowledge—something that Sarah Maddison and Sean Scalmer (2005) suggest may be countered by taking the knowledge produced by activists seriously. In this interview, Simon Hunt reflects on the genesis of Pauline Pantsdown, a drag persona that he developed in the late 1990s in reaction to Australian Conservative politician Pauline Hanson, who generated controversy for her racist and divisive views. The introduction briefly considers the importance of activist accounts and contextualizes Hunt’s practice in relation to arts activism and networked societies. From there, Hunt discusses a range of significant considerations for activism, notably the significance of using persona as a means for activism, the affordances and challenges of using social media, and methods for activating participation in a changing media landscape.

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Round and About the Bande Dessinée Québécoise

From Its Early Days to Chiendent

Christopher Rolfe

What follows is an attempt to contextualise the bandes dessinées produced in Quebec from their early beginnings in the late nineteenth century to their renewal and expansion during the years immediately following the Quiet Revolution. The intention, above all, is to give a sense of a changing intellectual, artistic and cultural landscape, and to situate the creators of comic strips within it. In fact, as will become evident, the history of Quebec's comic strips is closely linked to the history of the province and in many ways reflects it. (As we will see, the all-pervasive influence of the Catholic Church and the rise of Quebec nationalism can be traced in the development of the bande dessinée.) Necessarily, given the scope of the topic and the limited space available, the attempted coverage will be sketchy and incomplete. Moreover, it is only right to point out that its author is very much a novice in the field of the comic strip. Nevertheless, it is hoped that - to use an appropriate metaphor - a broader picture and different perspectives will emerge for those unfamiliar with the history of Quebec, and that new avenues of research will be prompted.

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The Lithographic Conspiracy

How Satire Framed Liberal Political Debate in Nineteenth-Century France

Amy Wiese Forbes

This article discusses political satire under the July Monarchy. It analyzes how the question of satire's political meaning was generated and framed in the 1830s as debate over abstract rights under the new, supposedly more liberal government of the July Monarchy. Following the Revolution of 1830, lithographic satire became connected conceptually to political conspiracy and was argued to be harmful to the new regime. State institutions, including the police, the courts, and the National Assembly, attempted to understand and define satire politically. The effort to evaluate satire's potential harm to the state shaped French liberalism into a contest between rights to free speech and protection from harm. This process was part of a broader struggle to construct legitimate authority in France.