What's So Funny?: Humor in American Culture / Edition 1

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Critical studies attempting to define and dissect American humor have been published steadily for nearly one hundred years. However, until now, key documents from that history have never been brought together in a single volume for students and scholars. What's So Funny? Humor in American Culture, a collection of 15 essays, examines the meaning of humor and attempts to pinpoint its impact on American culture and society, while providing a historical overview of its progres-sion. Essays from Nancy Walker and Zita Dresner, Joseph Boskin and Joseph Dorinson, William Keough, Roy Blount, Jr., and others trace the development of American humor from the colonial period to the present, focusing on its relationship with ethnicity, gender, violence, and geography. An excellent reader for courses in American studies and American social and cultural history, What's So Funny? explores the traits of the American experience that have given rise to its humor.

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Editorial Reviews

American Studies In Europe Newsletter
The extracts are well-chosen, and provide a tantalizing but satisfying glimpse of the breadth and depth of the subject. They also provide a good sense of the way in which humorous forms have been integral to the American experience.
Michael J. Kiskis
The essayists in this volume chronicle a complex history and draw attention to the scope of multimedia humor—from the earliest glint of irony and humor in descriptions of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century exploration to the sharp comedy of contemporary film, television, and stand-up routines. The result is an undeniable argument for the central role that humor plays in the development of an American culture shaped by the diverse voices that gained attention through print and electronic media. We have a strong case here that comedy is neither easy nor slight. This collection helps set the foundation for a greater appreciation of humor's influence in American society.
Regina Barreca
What's So Funny? Humor in American Culture is the book we've all been waiting for, and Nancy Walker is the hbest possible person to give us this volume. She presents us with the essential collection of erudite essays—essays that are themselves witty and entertaining—so that we know where American humor originates and where it's going.
Cameron C. Nickels
The wide-ranging pieces of various scholars in What's So Funny provide fine answers to the frank question posed by the title, but the cogent and lucid introduction by Nancy Walker probably does it best.
Contains 15 historical critical essays on American humor, dating back to 1882 and forward to 1985. Contents include "the great American joke," urban legends, southern humor, women's humor, stand-up comedy as social and cultural mediation, ethnic humor, and comedy in film and television. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Nancy A. Walker is professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Part I Chapter 2 Introduction: What Is Humor? Why American Humor? Chapter 3 Suggestions for Further Reading Part 4 Part II Chapter 5 American Humorists in 1882 Chapter 6 The Requisites for American Humor Chapter 7 The Great American Joke Chapter 8 No End of Jokes Chapter 9 The Violence of American Humor Chapter 10 Urban Legends Chapter 11 Southern Humor Chapter 12 Women's Humor in America Chapter 13 Comics as Culture Chapter 14 Stand-up Comedy as Social and Cultural Mediation Chapter 15 Ethnic Huor: Subversion and Survival Chapter 16 Comic Films Chapter 17 Television Comedy Chapter 18 Ideology in the Television Situation Comedy

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