The Literary Canon in the Russian Magazine and Newspaper Cartoons of the late 19th - early 20th centuries
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Literary canon
Russian Empire
Silver Age
Russian writer
Russian pre-revolutionary journalism
history of image
visual techniques

How to Cite

Sonina, E. (2021). The Literary Canon in the Russian Magazine and Newspaper Cartoons of the late 19th - early 20th centuries. Galactica Media: Journal of Media Studies, 3(3), 122-150.


An enormous amount of research has been devoted to studying the Russian classics. Nevertheless, the issue of reflecting social ideas about the writers whose works were included into the Russian literary canon has been insufficiently studied, especially with regard to satirical graphics. Caricature in the legitimate press is considered to be a popular visual art, with the image of a Russian writer demonstrating the attitude of society towards his work.

The purpose of this paper is to study the frequency of the portrayals of Russian writers in the satirical graphics of the early 20th century, which are viewed as a reflection of the established (and constantly updated) literary canon of Russia. Our objectives include identifying the images of Russian writers found in the satirical graphics, comparing the visualization techniques used to portray the authors in the caricatures of the 19th and early 20th centuries, highlighting the visual motifs used to contrast the literature of the past and the contemporary magazine issues and pointing out the persistent satirical characterizations and tropes of the images of famous writers, depending on the periodical.

On the basis of a selective scan of 25 thin magazines and two newspapers published from 1877 to 1917, more than 200 caricatures and satirical cartoons were identified, including benevolent and spiteful caricatures of Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Nicolai Nekrasov, Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky and many others. The cartoons held the readers’ interest in their literary work, forming the people’s attitude towards the human qualities of the writers and highlighting their personality among the rest of their peers. The prevalence of humor or satire was directly related to the historical context, either to the works of a particular writer, the editorial policy of publications or the position of a caricaturist. The cartoons of the early 20th century reflect the social atmosphere of the Silver Age: creative, critical, nervous and overthrowing the idols of the bygone eras. The article would prove useful for literary critics, historians of journalism and visual content researchers interested in the Russian pre-revolutionary press.
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