1st Edition

Humor and Masculinity in U.S. Fiction Intersections, Performances, and Functions

By Joseph L. Coulombe Copyright 2025
    296 Pages
    by Routledge

    Humor and Masculinity in U.S. Fiction offers a pragmatic and theoretically informed model for analyzing how humor and gender intersect in key U.S. texts, bringing much needed attention to the complex ways that humor can support and/or subvert reductive masculine codes and behaviors.  Its argument builds upon three major humor theories – the incongruity theory, superiority theory, and relief theory – to analyze how humor is used to negotiate the shifting constructions of masculinity and manhood in American culture and literature.  Focusing on explicit textual references to joking, pranks, and laughter, Humor and Masculinity in U.S. Fiction offers well-supported, original interpretations of works by Mark Twain, Owen Wister, Dorothy Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, Joseph Heller, Philip Roth, and Sherman Alexie.  The primary goal of Humor and Masculinity in U.S. Fiction is to understand the multiple ways that humor performs and interrogates masculinity in seminal U.S. texts.

    Introduction – Humor and Masculinity in U.S. Fiction: Critical Intersections, Methodologies, and Goals


    Chapter 1 –  When Humor Bombs: Masculinity in Crisis in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


    Chapter 2 – Weaponized Humor and Homosocial Bonding in Owen Wister’s The Virginian


    Chapter 3 – Performing Humor in Dorothy Parker’s Fiction: Female Masculinity and Reader Engagement


    Chapter 4 – Humor, Gender, and Community in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God


    Chapter 5 Subversive Humor in an Absurdly Gendered World: Joseph Heller’s Search for Meaning in Catch-22


    Chapter 6 – “Anything for a Laugh”: Transgressive Humor and Liberated Masculinity in Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint


    Chapter 7 – The Efficacy of Humor in Sherman Alexie’s Flight: Violence, Vulnerability, and the Post-9/11 World


    Works Cited



    Joseph L. Coulombe is a Professor of American literature in the English Department at Rowan University in New Jersey, U.S.  He is the author of two additional books, Reading Native American Literature (Routledge, 2011) and Mark Twain and the American West (2003), as well as multiple articles on various American writers, texts, and genres.  His scholarship explores how literary narratives position readers in relation to shifting ideologies of gender, region, and race.  Professor Coulombe earned his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 1998 and his B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1989.  He originally hails from La Crosse, Wisconsin, a Mississippi River town.