Humour in the Arts: New Perspectives, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Humour in the Arts

New Perspectives, 1st Edition

Edited by Vivienne Westbrook, Shun-liang Chao


230 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138314641
pub: 2018-08-10
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429455827
pub: 2018-07-27
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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.


"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

Table of Contents

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]


[John Morreall]

About the Editors

Vivienne Westbrook is an Adjunct Professor at The University of Western Australia and a member of St. John’s College, Cambridge. She has received numerous international endorsements for her work in cultural history, including a Presidential Award for Outstanding Contributions to Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Shun-liang Chao is Associate Professor of English at National Chengchi University, Taiwan and currently a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University. He is the author of Rethinking the Concept of the Grotesque: Crashaw, Baudelaire, Magritte (Routledge, 2010), awarded an Honourable Mention in 2013 for the Anna Balakian Prize of the International Comparative Literature Association.

About the Series

Studies for the International Society for Cultural History

In both research and teaching, the study of cultural history is burgeoning, with a variety of interpretations of culture cross-fertilizing between disciplines – history, critical theory, literature and media, anthropology and ethnology, and many more. This series focuses on the study of conceptual, affective and imaginative worlds of the past, and sees culture as encompassing both textual production and social practice. It seeks to highlight historical and cultural processes of meaning-making and explore the ways in which people of the past made sense of their world.

Submissions are invited from established scholars and first-time authors alike. Prospective authors should send a detailed proposal with a rationale, chapter outlines and at least two sample chapters alongside a brief author’s biography and an anticipated submission date to:

Howard Chiang: hhchiang @

Christopher E Forth: cforth @

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Civilization