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The James P. Danky Fellowship  

Now accepting applications--due May 2

2013 Danky Fellow: Ian Blechschmidt

Ian Blechschmidt is a PhD candidate in the Rhetoric and Public Culture program at Northwestern University. His major interest is the social role of print, popular, and visual culture. His project, tentatively titled “Comix and the middle-class family: Underground comix as cultural resistance in Cold War America,” explores how underground comix were a response to the consolidation of middle-class domestic and family values and consensus ideology during the Cold War.

Part of the underground publishing scene that helped to fuel the countercultural revolution, underground comix gained a following in the late sixties and early seventies with their scathing critiques of American culture, their psychedelic style, and their depictions of sex, drugs, and outrageous violence. One of their favorite targets was domestic, suburban, “boosh-wah” family life. At a time when the American family was promoted as a “bulwark” against dangers such as communist expansion and nuclear proliferation (May), the comix responded with taboo-busting depictions of, among other things, sexually adventurous Disney-esque cartoon characters and incestuous nuclear families.

This project uses a multidisciplinary approach to investigate both the rhetoric of the comix themselves and the wider practices surrounding their production and reception. It seeks to understand how comix attempted to critique and unsettle dominant systems of cultural production, distribution, and taste and how these were an attempt to disrupt the mechanisms by which suburban, family-oriented domesticity was enforced as the definitive model of normality, respectability, and the “good life” in the Cold War USA.

Ian takes a particular interest in larger questions about how gender was being constructed through this model of normality and how the comix resisted such constructions. He is particularly interested in how comix attacked dominant ideals of masculinity and femininity, though rarely together, and rarely unproblematically.

The collection of comix and other underground prints and newspapers at the Wisconsin Historical Society presents valuable archival material for examining the ways that underground comix challenged mainstream ideologies during the Cold War. Such an examination is an opportunity to better understand how American family values have been contested through the production, distribution, and consumption of popular print culture.

Works cited
May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. 20th Anniversary Ed. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

Past Danky Fellows

About the Fellowship

In honor of James P. Danky's long service to print culture scholarship, the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Historical Society, is offering an annual short-term research fellowship.

The Danky Fellowship provides $1000 in funds for one individual planning a trip to carry out research using the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society (please see details of the collections at Grant money may be used for travel to the WHS, costs of copying pertinent archival resources, and living expenses while pursuing research here. If in residence during the semester, the recipient will be expected to give a presentation as part of the colloquium series of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture.

Preference will be given to:

  • proposals undertaking research in print culture history
  • research likely to lead to publication 
  • researchers early in their career
  • researchers from outside Madison

We strongly encourage applicants to speak with the  Reference Archivist at the WHS (phone: 608-264-6460; email: before applying for a grant. We are happy to help identify potential collections of which you may not otherwise be aware.

There is no application form.  Applicants must submit:

1)  A cover sheet with name, telephone, permanent address and e-mail, current employer/affiliation, title of project, and proposed dates of residency.

2)  A letter of two single-spaced pages maximum describing the project and its relation to specifically cited collections at the society and to  previous work on the same theme, and describing the projected outcome of the work, including publication plans. If residents of the Madison area are applying, they must explain their financial need for the stipend.

3)  Curriculum vitae.

4) Two confidential letters of reference. Graduate students must include their thesis advisor.

Applications are due by May 2.  The recipient will be notified by May 30.

Please email applications to: 

Anna Palmer
Coordinator, Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture


All donations are tax deductible.

Please visit to make a donation to the Danky Fellowship. Leave a message in the Comments box to designate your donation for the Danky Fellowship.

You may also write a check (marked "Danky Fellowship") payable to the Wisconsin Historical Foundation and mail it to: Wisconsin Historical Foundation, 816 State Street, Madison, WI 53706-1482 (phone: 608-261-9364).

Thank you for your generosity.