Deconstructing a Contemporary Egyptian Newspaper Caricature

Bahaa-Eddin MAZID

South Valley University (Egypt)
Department of Linguistics


Journalese is a complex discourse genre which may be broken down into a large number of subgenres, e.g., the headline, news stories, editorials, opinion columns, ads, obituaries, matrimonial columns, letters to the editor, horoscopes; and caricatures, to give only a partial list.

Caricature, sometimes referred to as cartoon, has already established itself as a regular newspaper and magazine subgenre; in fact, there are magazines entirely devoted to caricature — Punch is probably the most famous example. Caricatures usually aim at amusing the reader, illuminating public opinion, expressing shared symbolic consensus and concretizing abstract concepts (Morris, WWW). Press (1981) concludes that cartoons/caricatures are low satire, ridiculing individuals and parties (p.77).

Most caricatures contain an element of incongruity within or between schemata (Deckers & Buttram, 1990). A schema is "a cognitive structure for representing generic knowledge in memory." It represents "stereotypical concepts of objects, situations, and behavior sequences. Dinner at a restaurant is an example of a schema" (pp. 53-54). Deckers and Buttram (1990) identify two types of incongruity:

(1) Within schema: when an actual event does not fit within the expected instantiation of the schema variable, and

(2) Between schemata: when two activated schemata are opposite or incompatible with each other (p. 54). Resolution of the incongruity or incompatibility normally results in a perception of humor in a joke or a caricature.
In spite of its popularity and cultural significance, caricature has not received adequate research attention; the focus has so far been on political cartoons from a content analysis perspective.1 The present paper extends the application of semiotic analysis tools to the caricature discourse genre, although on a very narrow scale.


1. See, for example, Morris (WWW) and Press (1981). [RETURN]


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AS/SA Nº 9, Article 3 : Page 1 / 9

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