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Art as Critique: Caricature, Modernity and the Avant-Garde


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Zoe Opacic
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (60%) and three-hour take-home examination (40%)

Module description

This module examines the medium of caricature, and its younger sibling cartoon, as critical art forms, targeting both society and politics as much as the conventions of art itself. We will focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, looking at the diverse roles played by caricature and cartoon in the rise of the public sphere and mass culture, democracy and dissent, as well as their kinship with imperialism and racism. We will also study the agency of caricature in valorising deformation as an aesthetic category and in radical refashioning of modern artistic identities.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Caricature and cartoon as the media of modernity
  • Spaces of caricature: print-shop window, café, journal and the WWW
  • Socio-political ambiguity of caricature and cartoons
  • Caricature and gender
  • Caricature as lingua franca of bohemianism
  • Relationship between caricature and art, modern to postmodern
  • Caricature and the avant-garde
  • The relevance of caricature for contemporary (art) world

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • acquired a detailed knowledge of aspects of caricature, modernity and the avant-garde
  • developed the ability to observe, identify and analyse works of visual culture
  • developed a critical awareness of the functions of such works within the social and cultural contexts of their production and reception
  • become familiar with current debates and approaches to the subject
  • developed your ability to analyse and interpret critically historical evidence.