Dark Humor and Social Satire in the Modern British Novel

Dark Humor and Social Satire in the Modern British Novel

by Lisa Colletta
     
 

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Literary modernism traditionally focuses on the writings of self-consciously avant-garde writers who attempted to break with literary and aesthetic forms inherited from the nineteenth-century. This view of Modernism has overlooked much of the social comedy of the period, assessing it as satiric and therefore conservative, reinforcing the very cultural values it

Overview

Literary modernism traditionally focuses on the writings of self-consciously avant-garde writers who attempted to break with literary and aesthetic forms inherited from the nineteenth-century. This view of Modernism has overlooked much of the social comedy of the period, assessing it as satiric and therefore conservative, reinforcing the very cultural values it sets out to critique. Examining the work of Virginia Woolf, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Evelyn Waugh, and Anthony Powell in light of psychoanalytic theories of joke-work and gallows humor, Colletta claims that dark humor is an important characteristic of Modernism.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A work filled with breadth, depth, and savvy."--Regina Barreca, University of Connecticut
"A fresh, confident new voice in the field of twentieth-century literary studies--one that deserves close critical attention for its intelligence, mastery over sources, and sense of humor."--Kristin Bluemel, Monmouth University
"Lisa Colletta expands our understanding of literary and cultural modernism in this insightful and trenchant study of dark humor in twentieth century British literature between the world wars. In refreshingly readable prose that is both lively and penetrating, Colletta's probing analysis of the novels of Virginia Woolf, Ivy Compton Burnett, Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell reveals that the comedic mode, however anarchic and subversive, is crucial for the survival of the individual, and never more so than during periods of social turbulence. In her exploration of the work of British novelists who mock the modernist 'ideal Joycean god-artist objectively paring his fingernails,' Colletta illuminates their conviction that laughter in the face of despair is an effective antidotes to a bleak and soul-destroying social order."--Wendy Martin, Claremont Graduate Universtiy
"Lisa Colletta's Dark Humor and Social Satire in the Modern British Novel finally fills a gap in literary criticism. It intriguingly combines a literary study of humor with modernism, and does not shy from investigating authors such as Powell and Waugh who have so far been largely avoided by modernist scholars. The book not only offers a valuable psychological framework of 'humor' but also provides a compelling reading of Woolf, Compton-Burnett, Waugh and Powell. It is a tour de force that ought to be compulsory reading for anyone interested in literary modernism."--Christine Berberich, Managing Editor, Modernism/Modernity
"To the extent that dark comedy is a useful category, however, Lisa Colletta has made a significant contribution to understanding it, especially in relation to Modernism"--John Morreall, Humor 2005

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780230254527
Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan
Publication date:
10/01/2003
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
219 KB

Meet the Author

Lisa Colletta, a writer and scholar from Southern California, is Assistant Professor of English at Babson College in Massachusetts. She has published on the work of I. Compton-Burnett, D.H. Lawrence, and John Fowles and is co-editor of Wild colonial Girl: Essays on Edna O'Brien. She is currently editing the letters of Christopher Isherwood to his mother and is at work on a book examining British novelists in Hollywood, entitled Voluntary Novelists in Hollywood, 1935-65.

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