Wits End: Women's Humor as Rhetorical and Performative Strategy

Overview

Wit's end offers an original perspective on women's use of humor as a performative strategy in works of twentieth-century American literature. Sean Zwagerman argues that women, whose direct, explicit performative speech has been traditionally denied or not taken seriously, have often turned to humor as a means of communicating with men.

With a focus on language and gender, Zwagerman examines both the potential and limits of women's humor as a rhetorical strategy. He engages in ...

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Overview

Wit's end offers an original perspective on women's use of humor as a performative strategy in works of twentieth-century American literature. Sean Zwagerman argues that women, whose direct, explicit performative speech has been traditionally denied or not taken seriously, have often turned to humor as a means of communicating with men.

With a focus on language and gender, Zwagerman examines both the potential and limits of women's humor as a rhetorical strategy. He engages in theoretical debates, transcending boundaries between rhetoric and speech-act theory, and analyses the degree to which women see themselves as able to construct more empowering and inclusive speech acts. He allows his literacy examples not only to exemplify but to "talk back" to the theoretical assertions, challenging foundations in both humor and women's studies. Zwagerman advances new thinking on humor as the "end"- both the goal and limit - of performative strategy, and as a means of expressing a full range of serious purposes.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822960744
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2010
  • Series: Pitt Comp Literacy Culture Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Zwagerman is assistant professor of English at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1 "Like a Marriage with a Monkey"

An Argument for the Use of Speech-Act Theory in the Analysis of Humor 10

2 Subversive Potential Meets Social Resistance

Women's Humor in Thurber, Hurston, and Parker 42

3 Generally Unhappy

The Deconstruction of Speech Acts and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 92

4 Comic Relief

A Stand-up Performance by J. L. Austin and the Consequences of Not Getting It 129

5 Failure Revisited and Authority Regained

Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine 172

6 Sisyphus's Punch Line

Intentionality and Wit as Treatment for Postmodern Depression 194

Notes 215

Works Cited 223

Index 229

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