Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature

Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature

by L. Perry Curtis
     
 

Images of the Irish in political cartoons underwent a gradual but unmistakable change between the 1840s and the turn of the century. Depicted at first as harmless, whiskey-drinking peasants, Irishmen increasingly were represented - especially after the rise of the Fenian movement in the 1860s - as apelike monsters menacing law, order, and middle-class values. Showing… See more details below

Overview

Images of the Irish in political cartoons underwent a gradual but unmistakable change between the 1840s and the turn of the century. Depicted at first as harmless, whiskey-drinking peasants, Irishmen increasingly were represented - especially after the rise of the Fenian movement in the 1860s - as apelike monsters menacing law, order, and middle-class values. Showing that cartoons in London, Dublin, and New York newspapers tapped into a preexisting "cultural aquifer" of assumptions about race and civilization, L. Perry Curtis, Jr. explores the connections among Victorian images of the Irish, the lore of physiognomy, the debate over evolution, and the art of caricature. The escalating demonization of Paddy, the stereotypical Irish rebel, in such comic weeklies as Punch, Judy, and Fun paralleled the increasingly militant nature of Irish nationalism after the famine of the late 1840s. These harsh caricatures also played into the belief among many educated Victorians that the Irish were a separate race whose inferiority could be seen clearly in their facial features. And the midcentury emergence of Darwin's theories prompted cartoonists to assign to more violent Irish nationalists the role of the half-ape/half-man. Including American depictions of simianized Irishmen as examples of the first wave of nativism in the United States, Apes and Angels documents the power of caricature in reinforcing cultural stereo-types. First published in 1971, the book now includes a new introduction and two additional chapters that address recent scholarship on ethnic imagery and discuss a contemporary revival of the gorilla-guerilla figure in graphic portrayals of IRA terrorists.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780874741070
Publisher:
Smithsonian Institution Press
Publication date:
04/01/1971
Pages:
140

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