Chaney analyzes cartoons representing slaves and slavery from the British satirical periodical Punch, or the London Charivari to argue that African American readers such as Frederick Douglass engaged in an evolving role as readers, interpreters, and users of Punch's iconographic discourse—even when, after the outbreak of the Civil War, the political sensibilities of the British periodical were no longer sympathetic to the cause of abolition. Reading the ekphrastic relation between Punch cartoons of Shakespearean mock-ups of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and Douglass's citation of these images in various mid-nineteenth-century speeches, Chaney argues that this intertextual and transatlantic dialogue with Punch enabled Douglass to renegotiate inscriptions of racialization, authority, and iconic celebrity. Beyond the cartoons, key pieces of evidence utilized in the essay include humorous asides from Samuel Ringgold Ward during an 1853 address of the Congregational Union in England, Douglass's speech “The Proclamation and a Negro Army” (1863), and several of Douglass's statements about the racial and political value of his hair from various sources.
Michael A. Chaney; Heartfelt Thanks to Punch for the Picture: Frederick Douglass and the Transnational Jokework of Slave Caricature. American Literature 1 March 2010; 82 (1): 57–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2009-069
Download citation file: