Cartoons, like other forms of mass media, are aimed not just at anybody, but at a multitude of individuals. The extent to which these numerous individuals understand the cartoons in the same way depends not only on their shared interpretations of the word and image texts themselves, but also on interpretation strategies suggested by the (near)identical circumstances under which the cartoons are accessed. As Gail Dines points out, ‘‘locating cartoons within the cultural realm of mass communication requires an understanding of how these media forms come into existence and how they are consumed by the intended audience’’ (1995: 238). To understand better how cartoons are processed, it is necessary to generalize about contextual factors governing their perception. In this paper I examine cartoons by the Dutchman Peter van Straaten that all appeared on a tear-off calendar in the year 2001. The question addressed is how the temporal and spatial circumstances under which the cartoons are accessed, in combination with the generic conventions of the calendar in which they appear, trigger the activation of specific cognitive schemata, and thus steer and constrain possible interpretations. The general framework in which these matters are discussed is Sperber and Wilson’s (1995) Relevance Theory.
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