Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Robert Snyder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Adriana Novoa, Ph.D.


Art, Communications, History, Humor, Literary Theory, Symbolism


This thesis argues that literary theory applied to political cartoons shows that cartoons are reasoned arguments. The rhetorical devices used in the cartoons mimic verbal devices used by essayists. These devices, in turn, make cartoons influential in that they have the power to persuade readers while making them laugh or smile. It also gives examples of literary theorists whose works can be applied to political cartooning, including Frederick Saussure, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Wolfgang Iser. Not only do those theorists' arguments apply to text, they also apply to pictorial representations.

This thesis also discusses changes in the cartoon art form over the 250 years that American political cartoons have existed. Changes have occurred in both the way text and pictorial depictions have been presented by artists. This thesis makes some attempt to explain why the changes occurred and whether they have been for the better.


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