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Everyday articulations of identity at the limits of order

This book offers a theoretically and empirically rich analysis of humour’s relevance to world politics. Drawing on literature from a range of disciplines including International Relations (IR), literary theory, cultural studies and sociology, its central claim is that humour plays an underappreciated role in the making and unmaking of political subjectivities. As such, humour not only provides an illuminating way into debates about identity and the everyday production and reproduction of order, but also opens up hitherto under- or even unstudied sites where this production and reproduction takes place. With reference to the ancient comic figure of the parasite, the book suggests that humour has historically been understood in relation to anxieties about subjectivity, estrangement and the circumscription and protection of the political sphere. It identifies three distinct spaces where humour has informed, enabled or defined ‘parasitic’ engagements with world politics. In the body of artwork produced by detainees in concentration camps, in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others (LGBTQ+) responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and in carnivalesque tactics of contemporary mass protest, one can observe actors engaging through humour in the interrogation, negotiation and contestation of social, political and international relations. Through these detailed studies, the book demonstrates how everyday practices like humour can draw from, feed into, interrupt and potentially transform world politics.

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Indira Ghose

H AMLET DOES NOT HAVE a high opinion of the type of humour on offer on the early modern stage. He exhorts the players to ‘let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them. For there be of them that will themselves laugh to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of the play be then

in Shakespeare and laughter
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Victoria Coldham-Fussell

influenced more than we know by Red Crosse’s sad solemnity as he sets out on his quest (I.i.2.8), which at first glance fits so well with our expectations of both ‘epic’ and ‘holiness’. I want to suggest that this instinctive privileging of gravity over levity as we approach Book I – all the more powerful where it is subconscious – fundamentally affects the way we read, inhibiting our appreciation of the humour with which Spenser eviscerates Red Crosse’s heroic pretensions. Few readers, for example, have found much to laugh at in the poem’s first canto, partly thanks to

in Comic Spenser
Rachelle Hope Saltzman

6 Humours1 of the Great Strike In reality the spirit in which the strike was faced was amazing. There was a sort of picnic feeling in the air. No one minded inconveniences . . . all were taken as ‘jolly good fun.’ Perhaps this was partly because everyone was sure that the stoppage would not be of long duration . . . there was certainly no doubt as to the sporting spirit in which every discomfort and difficulty was met and conquered . . . Young men . . . became ticket collectors or porters and filled the bill as to the manner born. (‘The Humours of the Great

in A lark for the sake of their country
Incongruity in Feþegeorn (R.31)
Jonathan Wilcox

Humour theory is thriving these days. In such disciplines as cognitive psychology, sociology, philosophy, political science, cultural studies, and linguistics, in the practice of stand-up, cartooning, and clowning, scholars and practitioners are attempting to define just what constitutes humour and how it is created. 1 In this chapter, I will provide a brief introduction to humour theory in order to address the question of what makes the Exeter Book riddles funny. I will ground my analysis in a reading of Feþegeorn (R.31), which has been relatively

in Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition
Mark S. Dawson

4 Identifying the differently humoured From the winter of 1740 and into the next spring, Martha Underwood, a London servant, perused the capital’s newspapers. Here she followed the awful career of Henry Cook, a shoemaker from her native Stratford turned highwayman who had reputedly murdered one of his victims.1 By late July 1741, she was pursuing him. Having spotted him, and because it was ‘the Law of the Land, and … Justice to my Country’, Underwood dogged Cook through city by-ways, using reference to the newspapers to convince porters, alehouse patrons, a

in Bodies complexioned
The spectacle of dissection
Stephanie Codsi

6 Blake's Gothic humour: the spectacle of dissection Stephanie Codsi William Blake's depiction of the body is frequently horrific, appealing to our sense of disgust and revulsion. From the alien vegetable-life of the ‘Dim & glutinous … white Polypus’ ( BL 4:57; E 93) to the disturbing image of ‘screaming’ organs ( BA 4:31; E 88), Blake's bodies vacillate from

in William Blake's Gothic imagination
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Averageness, Populism and Seriality in Robert Benchley‘s How to Short Subjects
Rob King

Over the course of the 1930s, the comic persona of Algonquin humorist Robert Benchley changed from that of a sophisticated humorist to an average man. This article situates Benchley‘s How to short subjects for MGM (1935–44) within a broader public preoccupation with averageness that characterised the populist political rhetoric of New Deal-era America. In particular, it explores the function of seriality as a discursive trope conjoining the format of Benchley‘s MGM shorts to the broader construction of average identities in the eras political culture.

Film Studies
Barbara Comyns and the Female Gothic Tradition
Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik

Horner and Zlosnik explore the work of the English novelist Barbara Comyns whose best-known works were published between 1950 and 1985. They focus on The Vet‘s Daughter (1959) and The Skin Chairs (1962) and explore how Comyns‘s use of parody, wit, and humour exposes the horrors of domestic life. For Horner and Zlosnik this constitutes a Female Comic Gothic which is grotesque and blackly comic in its critical assault on patriarchal plots, and so constitutes a particular form of the Female Gothic which became popular in the twentieth century.

Gothic Studies
The 1926 General Strike volunteers in folklore and memory

The 1926 General Strike lasted officially from midnight on 3 May until 12 May. Over the course of nine days, four million workers came out in sympathy with coal miners, who were protesting against attempts by mine owners and managers to reduce wages and lengthen hours. The General Strike was not merely evidence of class divisions and a postwar society in transition; the event and its participants have become national folk symbols for Britishness. The university lads, society women, Bright Young People, and businessmen who served as volunteers did not regard their acts as motivated by class divisions but fuelled by a desire to keep their country moving. Clearly, volunteering was an adventure, a way of making oneself important to the community at large. But it was also an act limited to those of a certain age and socio-economic status, those who had both the leisure and few responsibilities to others. The very nature of the activities required of volunteers restricted who could or could not join up. Furthermore, the semi-official nature of the organization of the call-up dictated that the more desirable jobs would go to those of higher social status. The defining features of the General Strike were its good humour and the ways in which all involved used a variety of comic forms of speech and behaviour to frame the event and express particular visions of the national community.