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Barbaric Intercourse

Caricature and the Culture of Conduct, 1841-1936

Barbaric Intercourse tells the story of a century of social upheaval and the satiric attacks it inspired in leading periodicals in both England and America. Martha Banta explores the politics of caricature and cartoon from 1841 to 1936, devoting special attention to the original Life magazine. For Banta, Life embodied all the strengths and weaknesses of the Progressive Era, whose policies of reform sought to cope with the frenetic urbanization of New York, the racist laws of the Jim Crow South, and the rise of jingoism in the United States. Barbaric Intercourse shows how Life’s take on these trends and events resulted in satires both cruel and enlightened.

Banta also deals extensively with London’s Punch, a sharp critic of American nationalism, and draws from images and writings in magazines as diverse as Puck,The Crisis,Harper’s Weekly, and The International Socialist Review. Orchestrating a wealth of material, including reproductions of rarely seen political cartoons, she offers a richly layered account of the cultural struggles of the age, from contests over immigration and the role of the New Negro in American society, to debates over Wall Street greed, women’s suffrage, and the moral consequences of Western expansionism.

447 pages | 145 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2002

History: American History

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature


“<I>Barbaric Intercourse<I> is extensively researched, offering both a wonderful archive of caricatures and a model for reading and understanding them. Banta situates these images within a dense historical context, showing how they engage and deflect the major social concerns of their day. . . . One learns not only about individual artists and editors but also a good deal about nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century British, and especially American, social and cultural history.”

Shawn Michelle Smith | American Literature

“This is a timely book, an entertaining book and a book that will cause the map of graphic satire to be radically restructured. There is much to praise and ponder in this magisterial work.”

Marcus Wood | Textual Practice

“A magnificent study of the rules of behavior governing social intercourse as seen through the cartoons and caricatures in popular periodicals. . . . Whether she is reading the images of monsters on the loose in London or of monstrous behavior in the Philippines . . . Bantu skillfully explores the powers of these visual images.”

Patricia Okker | American Literary Realism

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Origins
2. Out of Place
3. History Lessons
4. The Company One Keeps
5. Etiquettes for Anger
6. War in the Nursery
7. The Fate of Fantasy in a High-Anxiety World
Select Bibliography

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