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On the hypoiconic structure of cartoons

Chu, Y. (2020) On the hypoiconic structure of cartoons. Social Semiotics . pp. 1-17.

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The core claim of this paper is that mainstream political cartoons uniquely combine three features of iconicity, direct resemblance, diagrammatic schematization, and metaphoric displacement, summed up by Charles S. Peirce under the concept of hypoiconicity. Accordingly, cartoon readers cannot but reconstruct direct resemblance relations with actual, historical persons and situations from their metaphoric distortion provided in the cartoon and retrace the cartoonist’s schematized, diagrammatic reasoning in order to arrive at the cartoon’s satirical message. The main source of the humorous effect of cartooning is shown to be the incongruity between the cartoon and the viewer’s reconstruction of the cartoonist’s satirical target. The paper rehearses the semiotic relations involved in Peirce’s notion of hypoiconicity, before reviewing the cartoon literature from the angles of genre, reader response, and multimodal discourse, via a social semiotic approach. The paper concludes with a reading of a single-frame, political cartoon from the perspective of hypoiconicity, followed by a brief generic description.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Creative Media, Arts and Design
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
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