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Classics in the Modern WorldA Democratic Turn?$
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Lorna Hardwick and Stephen Harrison

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673926

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673926.001.0001

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Democracy and Popular Media

Democracy and Popular Media

Classical Receptions in Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-First Century Political Cartoons—Statesmen, Mythological Figures, and Celebrated Artworks1

(p.319) 23 Democracy and Popular Media
Classics in the Modern World

Alexandre G. Mitchell

Oxford University Press

There is much debate today on who reads classics. There are some who assume that only the elites had or have access to classics, but what should we make of the many thousands of caricatures in prominent newspapers and propaganda leaflets, from the nineteenth century to today, which use classical references, whether they are visual myths, events, or statesmen, and much more, to mock current affairs? Did everyone understand the references? Who was or is mocked? The contemporary politician or Herakles? More importantly, why would a cartoonist need a reference to Nero, Herakles, Caesar, or the statue of the Laocoon to mock a nineteenth or twenty-first-century politician? Does everyone understand these references today? Newspapers: the material is cheap—paper—it has to ‘please’ the public, at least in its design if not in the information it contains, and newspapers thrive in democracies. Political cartoons, as individual and powerful images, crystallize a number of different gazes all within a democratic context.

Keywords:   political cartoon, caricature, Nero, Laocoon, newspaper

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