Falling stars and sinking ships: Framing and metaphor in cartoons about Brexit

Alberto Godioli*, Ana Pedrazzini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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The present study provides a systematic analysis of 119 satirical cartoons on Brexit, published by European and non-European artists between 23 May and 30 June 2016. Particular attention is paid to the cartoonists’ use of metaphor scenarios (i.e., according to Musolff’s definition, figurative mini-narratives generated by one or more metaphors), and to their crucial role in framing the possible causes and consequences of Brexit. Our analysis yielded the following key findings: 1) Most cartoons take a rather generic stance against or in favor of Brexit, without directly engaging with specific arguments; on the other hand, argumentative simplification tends to coexist with rhetorical complexity. 2) Both Remain and Leave cartoons engaged with the same scenarios, often turning them around against each other through the rhetorical strategy known as trumping; also beyond the realm of satirical cartoons, metaphor scenarios provided a shared conceptual repertoire used by both sides of the Brexit debate. 3) Personification is far more frequent for the UK than for the EU. This may be due to the UK being assigned with a more active role, as well as to the greater difficulty in representing the EU through one single person (be it a politician or a symbolic figure). 4) In most Remain cartoons, metaphor scenarios point towards extreme and irreversible outcomes for the UK. This particular inclination to hyperbole can be seen as a way to mirror the excesses of the populist rhetoric used by Leave supporters, thus compensating for the Remainers’ relatively dispassionate language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-323
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of European Studies
Issue number3-4
Early online date13-Aug-2019
Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2019


  • Brexit
  • European Union
  • cartoons
  • framing
  • metaphor
  • scenario
  • crisis

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