Envisioning the right : caricature and the "Action franca̜ise", 1920-1926

Anthony Jay Cantor
2004
Between 1920 and 1926, Jehan Sennep, later a prominent French cartoonist and journalist of the Right, published cartoons in the "Action française", the journal of the eponymous French monarchist and integral nationalist movement led by Charles Maurras and Leon Daudet. Cartoons illuminate how cultural products intersect with ideas in the formation of a discursive set of conditions understood as "reality." This allows for a deeper understanding of the culture in which Action Francaise ideology
more » ... ancaise ideology acquired meaning by revealing the images and symbols that, in furthering this ideology, resonated or were expected to resonate with the public. The key thing for Sennep was to convey meaning through the invocation of ideas, assumptions and stereotypes that were current at the time. Caricature permitted him to tell detailed stories about the state of French culture in a one-panel format by relying on shared associations. Sennep relied on "everyday knowledge" in creating his cartoons. His work reveals a discourse surrounding such aspects of the everyday—that is, of the dominant "common knowledge"—as gender, through feminisation, the rural/urban or peasant/city denizen dichotomy, phobias, through motifs of infestation, and empire or colonial subjects. I will interpret Sennep's pictures of the nation and identify the exact nature of the threat he perceived from internal and external enemies, showing that fears about the French nation centred on the potential danger posed by elements in French society and government that were deemed not truly to belong. Even his depiction of external enemies, such as Germany or international communism, can be shown to reveal a preoccupation with internal elements. In showing this and assessing the recurrent themes, I will discuss what the symbols reveal about the culture in which they had currency and the cultural and intellectual debates that raged at the time and helped structure Sennep's symbolic language.
doi:10.14288/1.0091602 fatcat:ywrwylvgtvecbfmojxejquebxi