Humour and intertextuality in Steve Bell's political cartoons

Maria Jesús Pinar


The aim of this paper is to analyse 12 political cartoons published by Steve Bell in the left-wing oriented newspaper The Guardian to show how visual metaphors and metonymies and intertextual references are powerful strategies to present potent rhetorical depictions of political candidates and political issues. These devices are used to establish intertextual links across political cartoons and historical events, contemporary culture, paintings, literary works and illustrations. The themes that appear regularly in political cartoons have been identified, as well as a number of categories of source domains in visual metaphors. The analysis of the cartoons reveals that the interpretation of the cartoon and the appreciation of humour depend on the audience’s access to background knowledge, both of the political situation described in the cartoon and the intertextual references presented, on the audience’s ideology and on the decoding of the characteristics mapped onto the target of the metaphor.


political cartoon; intertextuality; visual metaphor; background knowledge

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