Associate Director for Digital Learning and Research Nhora Lucía Serrano recently published a book chapter on “Columbia and the Editorial Cartoon” in The Oxford Handbook of Comic Book Studies. It is currently available online, with print publication expected in the fall.
Serrano’s chapter looks at the figure of Columbia in editorial cartoons from the 19th century to the early 21st century, specifically in instances where Columbia represents the nation in times of sociopolitical impasse, crisis, or change.
The chapter analyzes R. J. Matson’s “The Handmaid’s Senators,” a contemporary editorial cartoon that editorializes the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. An analysis of the 1865 “Pardon/Franchise,” a Harper’s Weekly centerfold by Thomas Nast in which Columbia is seen as the mouthpiece for Lincoln’s enfranchisement politics, follows.
The chapter also briefly analyzes three illustrations, drawn during the 1893 Chicago World Fair, that focus on women. Featured in Joseph Keppler’s Puck, Columbia recedes to the background in these illustrations, while Lady Chicago celebrates the historic event.
Returning to Matson’s cartoon, Serrano’s chapter concludes that Columbia has always been the sociopolitical handmaid, who protects underrepresented people and facilitates commentary delivered to the public.
The Handbook of Comic Book Studies brings together the world’s leading scholars of comics studies for in-depth scholarly work and an examination of cutting-edge research in graphic narratives. The volume is part of the Oxford Handbook series that promotes a critical survey of the current state of scholarship.