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Maupoint,_Micheline.pdf (11.01 MB)

'Un Bon Dessin Vaut Mieux Qu'un Long Discours': The role and impact of cartoons in contemporary France

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:23 authored by Micheline E Maupoint
Cartoons have traditionally occupied an important place in French visual culture, and are now a permanent feature in even the most prestigious publications, including Le Monde, where they appear on the front page. Moreover, there is a long tradition of political cartooning which is firmly situated within the historical context of caricature and lampooning, which over the years has contributed to public debates on key issues such as politics, religion and social change. In this thesis, I focus on political cartoons and argue that the political cartoon is still significant as a cultural product and as a powerful journalistic medium at a time when the existence of the print media is threatened by new technological developments. In order to understand how cartoons remain a powerful mode of expression in the twenty-first century, I begin by examining the historical development of cartooning, tracing its origins in grotesque art, physiognomy and caricature. I then explore a number of events in early modern European history such as the Reformation and the French Revolution to show that the medium was used as a means of mass communication, to inform a largely illiterate public, incite protest and instigate rebellion through propaganda. I show how political graphics were used as effective political weapons against the ruling authorities, in the face of tight regulation such as censorship, and underline the French artists’ commitment to defend their right of expression. As I demonstrate, this commitment continues to be pursued by contemporary French cartoonists such as Plantu who is dedicated to fighting for freedom of expression and promoting peace issues, under the banner of Le Monde and the United Nations. In analysing a corpus of Plantu’s editorial creations, I underline theoretical perspectives for ‘reading’ cartoons and illuminate the visual rhetoric used by cartoonists to communicate serious issues. I conclude with an assessment of the significant role that French cartoonists played during the 2006 Cartoons War to further highlight the impact of cartoons as a vehicle for political communication, and as a catalyst for debate in the twenty first century.


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