Dickensian Laughter Essays on Dickens and Humour
- ISBN 13:
- ISBN 10:
- Format: Hardcover
- Copyright: 11/06/2013
- Publisher: Oxford University Press
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This book is framed as a series of essays examining and reflecting on Dickens's techniques for making us laugh. How is it that some written incident, or speech, or narrative "aside" can fire off the page into the reader's conciousness and jolt him or her into a smile, a giggle, or a hearty laugh? That is the core question here. His first novel, Pickwick Papers, was acclaimed at the time as having "opened a fresh vein of humor" in English literature: what was the social nature of the humour that established this trademark "Dickensian" method of making people laugh? And how many kinds of laughter are there in Dickens? What made Dickens himself laugh? Victorian and contemporary theories of laughter can provide useful insights into these processes--incongruity theory or the "relief" theory of laughter, laughter's contagiousness (laughter as a "social glue"'), the art of comic timing, the neuroscience of laughter. These and other ideas are brought into play in this short book, which considers not only Dickens's novels but also his letters and journalism. And to that end there are copious quotations. The aim of the book is to make readers laugh and also to prompt them to reflect their laughter. It should have an interest not only for Dickensians but for anyone curious about the nature of laughter and how it is triggered.