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Should We Laugh or Should We Cry? John Callahan's Humor as a Tool to Change Societal Attitudes Toward Disability

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Abstract:

While cartoon scholarship in the communication discipline seeks to uncover the persuasive functions and semiotic techniques of cartoons , the discipline has predominantly looked at editorial cartoons and largely neglected the area of gag cartoons . Gag cartoons , as a particular genre of humor , provide a unique form of public argument . Drawing from the rhetorical theories of Stephen Toulmin on practical reasoning ( 1958 ) and of Kenneth Burke on perspective by incongruity ( 1959 ), this article provides a rhetorical analysis of the activist humor of quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan . Specifically , the article seeks to demonstrate how Callahan ' s cartoons contribute to the ongoing struggle over the construction of disability in American culture .
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