What is it about?

The global financial crisis erupted in all its violence in October 2008. This highly newsworthy event unsurprisingly led many cartoonists to respond in their cartoons: standalone visuals or visuals accompanied by short written texts. We sampled all the cartoons about the financial crisis that appeared on the Cagle Cartoon website, selecting a time slot of two weeks in October 2008. We then decided which cartoons represented the crisis metaphorically (most of them) and inventoried to what event or action the crisis was metaphorically compared. Next we categorized these, finding that "natural disaster" was the most often used source domain.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Cartoons are often metaphorical, and instantly provide a perspective on a political state of affairs. Up till now, some studies on visual cartoons had appeared, but we think we were the first to analyze a (small) corpus of cartoons that all pertained to the same subject. Such work feeds both into visual and multimodal metaphor theory, but also contributes to cartoon studies.


We had to solve quite a few methodological problems. For one thing, we needed to decide whether the glosses that the Cagle website provided (and which of course were not part of the cartoons themselves) should be counted as part of their meaning -- which had consequences for labelling the metaphors as purely visual or as multimodal. It was interesting to see that although "natural disaster" (a highly "embodied" source domain in the terminology of Lakoff and Johnson 1980) was used across the globe, there were nonetheless cultural differences. A Thai cartoonist depicted a tsunami; a Swiss one an avalanche.

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Metaphors in editorial cartoons representing the global financial crisis, Visual Communication, May 2011, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1470357211398446.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page