Smile of Discontent: Humor, Gender, and Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

Smile of Discontent: Humor, Gender, and Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

by Eileen Gillooly
     
 

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Like sex, Eileen Gillooly argues, humor has long been viewed as a repressed feature of nineteenth-century femininity. However, in the works of writers such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, and Henry James, Gillooly finds an understated, wryly amusing perspective that differs subtly but significantly in rhetoric, affect, and

Overview

Like sex, Eileen Gillooly argues, humor has long been viewed as a repressed feature of nineteenth-century femininity. However, in the works of writers such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, and Henry James, Gillooly finds an understated, wryly amusing perspective that differs subtly but significantly in rhetoric, affect, and politics from traditional forms of comic expression.

Gillooly shows how such humor became, for mostly female writers at the time, an unobtrusive and prudent means of expressing discontent with a culture that was ideologically committed to restricting female agency and identity. If the aggression and emotional distance of irony and satire mark them as "masculine," then for Gillooly, the passivity, indirection, and sympathy of the humor she discusses render it "feminine." She goes on to disclose how the humorous tactics employed by writers from Burney to Wharton persist in the work of Barbara Pym, Anita Brookner, and Penelope Fitzgerald.

The book won the Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Award given by the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Poovey
One of the most innovative uses of psychoanalysis I've seen, Eillen Gillooly's Smile of Discontent gives us a lesson in how to read psychoanalytically and shows us how to understand style as an active participant in the world created by the novel.
Lingua Franca

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226294025
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
06/28/1999
Series:
Women in Culture and Society Series Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
289
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

Claudia L. Princeton University
Smile of Discontent is a searching and persuasive account of humor and gender in nineteenth-century fiction, every bit as mordant, unnerving, and funny as the texts it illuminates. A splendid book.

Meet the Author

Eileen Gillooly teaches English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

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