Perspective by incongruity: Visual argumentative meaning in editorial cartoons

P.J. van den Hoven, Joost Schilperoord

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In this chapter, we identify the visual structures of cartoons that enable cartoonists
to evoke visual argumentation. For a cartoon to convey opinions or opinions
with arguments, a prerequisite is that its visual (or verbal) structures evoke some
kind of incongruity. We demonstrate how a particular class of cartoons – ones
we call multi-domain cartoons, evoke such incongruities and how the readers, in
order to resolve these incongruities, build argumentative interpretations. These
kinds of interpretations relate systematically to the cartoon’s multi-domain
structure and to the kinds of foreknowledge competent and reasonable readers
are assumed to bring to the task of grasping a cartoon’s meaning. Because
cartoons constitute a highly contextualized rhetorical genre, visual and verbal
structures reveal the specific foreknowledge anticipated by the cartoonist. This
qualifies argumentative interpretations based on foreknowledge as deliberate.
We therefore conclude that the perceived argumentation is not invented by the
audience, but anticipated by the cartoonist.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMultimodal Argumentation and Rhetoric in Media Genres
EditorsAssimakis Tseronis, Charles Forceville
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9789027264695
ISBN (Print)9789027211316
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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