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Heroes and saints : caricature, ethnic anxiety and Punch’s images of Italian Risorgimento in mid-nineteenth century Britain Hanson, Jennifer


The expansion of the newspaper and periodical press in Victorian Britain was one sign of the rapid metamorphosis of the modern English city. The emergence of new forms of print media responded to growth in urban populations, shifting class definitions, and rapidly expanding technology and industrialization. Simultaneously, however, these new publications worked to articulate concepts of self and community during a period when domestic politics, immigration, international relations and colonial enterprises were testing and reworking the boundaries of the nation. This thesis focuses on the satirical illustrated journal Punch, first published in 1841, and explores the ways in which the periodical served as a site where anxieties over religious and "racial" difference in Britain were addressed and negotiated. A particular set of international events taking place at mid-century, the wars of Italian Unification (the Risorgimento), provide the vehicle for examining such social anxieties. As this study will show, the events of the Risorgimento were re-cast in Punch in domestic terms; specifically, the journal configured the foreign Italian wars of liberation in relation to contemporary Protestant concerns that Irish Catholics within the British polity posed a threat to cohesive notions of nationhood. Within this context, an analysis of the social and political caricatures in Punch during the early 1860's provides a basis for exploring how the journal's visual rhetoric permitted opportunities for commentary not feasible in other periodical or newspaper forms. As I will argue, both text and satirical imagery within the comic journal, worked to forge a cohesive community of readers through representation. This strategy, however, was ultimately indicative of the fractures within the delicate construction of British identity and modern nation space.

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