Eduard Fuchs and the Dialectical Image of Caricature: Marxist Cultural Theory in an Age of Fake News

  • Author / Creator
    Nikolic, Misa
  • The Marxist cultural historian Eduard Fuchs (1870–1940) made major contributions to our understanding of caricature which are of continuing relevance today. Although he has been criticised for his inconsistent methodology, the question of whether Fuchs treats caricature in a dialectical fashion remains insufficiently answered. To address this question I examine Fuchs’ earliest scholarly works published between 1898 and 1904, in which he outlines the manner in which caricature is used as a weapon in class struggle. This period of his career marks a turn from his previous journalistic activity.
    I also compare Fuchs’ methodology with that of other early historians of caricature such as Thomas Wright, Jules Champfleury, and Arsène Alexandre. They had already set a standard for survey histories of caricature which avoided overt political analysis in favour of hagiographic or nostalgic frames of reference, staying safely distant from recent caricatures that might still risk offending some readers or drawing the attention of state censors. Fuchs was unique not only in his Marxist approach to caricature, but also in carrying his analysis through to his own present.
    My analysis relies heavily on the concept of the dialectical image as theorized by Walter Benjamin and Susan Buck-Morss. Using this concept I plot the oppositional tendencies of caricature, and extrapolate the characteristics of other forms of mass persuasion such as state propaganda. With the dialectical image the inherent and irresolvable tensions of caricature are clearly articulated and the power dynamics come into sharper focus. Contemporary forms of political satire are also susceptible to this type of analysis, which permits us to untangle current debates about free speech, fake news, and the fundamental need for a free press that can continue to employ humour and ridicule as critical tools.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.