This collection demonstrates the usefulness of approaching texts—verbal, visual and aural—through a framework of humour. Contributors offer in-depth discussions of humour in the West within a wider cultural historical context to achieve a coherent, chronological sense of how humour proceeds from antiquity to modernity. Reading humorously reveals the complexity of certain aspects of texts that other reading approaches have so far failed to reveal. Humour in the Arts explores humour as a source of cultural formation that engages with ethical, political, and religious controversies whilst acquainting readers with a wide range of humorous structures and strategies used across Western cultures.
Foreword: The Intersection of Humour Studies and Cultural History Jessica Milner Davis Introduction: Reading Humorously: Towards New Perspectives Shun-liang Chao and Vivienne Westbrook 1. Literary Humour in English: A Short Cultural History Robert S. White 2. Unbidden to the Banquet: Humour in the Classical Period R. Drew Griffith 3. Understatement and Incongruity: Humour in the Literature of Anglo-Saxon England Jonathan Wilcox 4. Laughter and Humour in Middle English Texts Anne M. Scott 5. Shakespeare’s Reformation Humour Vivienne Westbrook 6. "To Make Fools Laugh, and Women Blush, and Wise Men Ashamed": Humour in the English Restoration Lyndsey Bakewell and Sara Read 7. Beyond Slapstick: Humour, Physicality, and Empathic Performance in G. E. Lessing’s Comedies Pascale LaFountain 8. Emerson’s Sad Clown: American Transcendentalism and the Dilemma of the Humourist John Michael Corrigan 9. The Congruity of Incongruity: Victorian Intermedial Humour Mou-Lan Wong 10. "A Tomato Is Also a Child’s Balloon": Surrealist Humour as a Moral Attitude Shun-liang Chao Conclusion John Morreall
"Humour in the Arts: New Perspectives refreshes me at a time when humour has become rancid. Vivienne Westbrook and Shun-liang Chao return us to a lost world where humour could be good natured.”
-Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English, Yale University, USA