New England Humor: From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War

Overview

Although New England provided the most popular form of American literary humor in the nineteenth century, scholars have traditionally passed over it in favor of the more earthy "frontier" humor of the era. Cameron C. Nickels argues, however, that New England humor had a significant place in the cultural and political history of the time. Widely circulated in print and on stage, New England humor was, in fact, a national humor. Entertainment was the primary function of nineteenth-century humor, but Nickels ...
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Overview

Although New England provided the most popular form of American literary humor in the nineteenth century, scholars have traditionally passed over it in favor of the more earthy "frontier" humor of the era. Cameron C. Nickels argues, however, that New England humor had a significant place in the cultural and political history of the time. Widely circulated in print and on stage, New England humor was, in fact, a national humor. Entertainment was the primary function of nineteenth-century humor, but Nickels believes that it also played a serious role in the complex struggle to give substance to the national identity promised by the American Revolution. Central to New England humor is the figure of the rustic Yankee - Brother Jonathan, the archetypal American, a figure who would evolve into Uncle Sam. Taking many forms, the rustic Yankee embodied the dilemma of a nation asserting its identity within vernacular New World values while aspiring to traditional Old World values. Nickels suggests that the tensions of this dilemma could be expressed in humor. Bringing together approaches that encompass elements of literature, political science, and history, Nickels explores the complexities of our evolving national persona and helps us to understand New England humor within the political and cultural contexts of the nineteenth century.
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Editorial Reviews

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Argues that New England humor has been neglected in favor of the earthier frontier humor of early America, that it embodied the tension between values of the old and new worlds, and that it played an important role in giving substance to the national identity promised by the struggle for independence. Highlights the cartoon, literary, and stage career of the rustic Yankee caricature, Brother Jonathan, who evolved into Uncle Sam. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870498046
  • Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1993
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 New England Humor and the Dilemma of American Identity 1
2 Early American Humor 27
3 New England Humor on Stage 57
4 New England Humor in Print: Stories, Letters, and Poems 83
5 New England Humor Illustrated 119
6 The New England Cracker-barrel Philosophers 147
Conclusion 215
Notes 219
Bibliographic Essay 245
Selected Bibliography 249
Index 269
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