What is it about?

It is crucial for comics readers-viewers to correctly judge characters' emotional states, as these are key drivers in the development of narratives. There are various ways in which artists can convey emotions visually: by facial expressions and body postures, but also by using more or less coded signs such as specific types of text balloons and certain types of lines around characters' heads -- sometimes called "pictorial runes." In this paper all visual signals of one emotion, anger, are inventoried for all angry characters in the Asterix album "The Roman Agent" -- which has lots of them. These signals are subsequently discussed in terms of the Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM) of anger proposed by the Conceptual Metaphor Theory scholar Zoltan Kovecses.

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Why is it important?

Conceptual metaphor theory/CMT (fathered by Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By, 1980) claims that human beings do not only speak and write, but actually THINK metaphorically. Within CMT this is mainly demonstrated on the basis of verbal communication. In order to substantiate CMT's claims, it is necessary to show that, and how, conceptual metaphors also standardly appear in non-verbal discourses, for instance in comics. In turn, visual studies and comics scholarship may benefit from such investigations. It is argued that (i) the representations of anger found here are, at the least, compatible with the most dominant anger metaphor found by Kovecses, namely ANGER IS THE HEAT OF A FLUID IN A CONTAINER, and are probably motivated by it; and (ii) the medium of comics may privilege aspects of ICMs that are less dominant, or even absent, in its linguistic manifestations.


Humanities scholarship can help develop an all-encompassing theory of communication rooted in cognitive studies. Charting how ICMs systematically manifest themselves in different media reveals both cross-modal similarities and media-specific differences, and thus contributes key insights to realizing this ambitious project.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

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This page is a summary of: Visual representations of the idealized cognitive model of anger in the Asterix album La Zizanie, Journal of Pragmatics, January 2005, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2003.10.002.
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