Caricatures of Man-Made Nature: Reflections on Environmental Change in German Magazines from the Era of Industrialization
My research project focuses on a selection of long-forgotten caricatures that appeared in literary and satirical magazines during the era of industrialization. These caricatures depict man-made environmental transformations and address their consequences in the humorous manner typical of the genre. Usually neglected as mere illustrations in literary and cultural studies, their potential as a pictorial form of satire is greatly underestimated. However, as a unique medium of cultural criticism that inventively reveals problematic developments and imagines alternatives by combining text and image, it deserves more attention and a specific approach informed by intermedia studies. Random samples from 19th-century journals already show that many of the drawings indicate that the relationship between humans and nature is changing. They expose a utilization of resources that is highly questionable and implicitly demand environmental protection and thus a proto-ecological ethics. I intend to contextualise such caricatures with reference to environmental history, socio-political background and media history, as well as to offer iconographic interpretations. The aim is to decode and distinguish different modes of the artistic representation of environmental transformations and to assess their socio-political influence at a time when our world was less flooded with images than today.