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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 29, 2019

Which Donald is this? Which tyche is this? A semiotic approach to nomadic cartoonish characters

Stephan Packard

Abstract

Dealing with a de- or recontextualized cartoon affords media users a number of challenges and opportunities. The approach proposed here traces these effects not merely as consequences of universalized converging media, storyworlds, and transfictional or transdiegetic character models, but complements that view by reversing the question and asking which semiotic feats media users are invited to accomplish as they engage with a cartoon and gradually build consequences around that encounter. From a deduction of general properties applied to a specific instance, I move to abductions that generalize by departing from said instance. I propose distinguishing three different aspects of the phenomenon alongside three different questions that one might ask of a given cartoonish depiction of some character. By categorical deduction, one might first ask, “Who is this cartoon?” In a pragmaticist reversal that takes its cue from the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce, one might then ask, “What shall I do with this cartoon?” And finally, from a point of view that conceives of the transmedial aspects of the challenge by foregrounding the uncertainties that establish the decontextualized encounter in the first place, one might adapt a concept from Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis and ask, “Which tyche is this?”

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Published Online: 2019-11-29
Published in Print: 2019-11-28

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