Women and Comedy
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Women and Comedy

History, Theory, Practice
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Peter Dickinson
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Women and Comedy: History, Theory, Practice brings together leading researchers from Canada, the United States, and Europe in an interdisciplinary collection of essays to chart the future of critical inquiry in gender and comedy studies.
Women and Comedy: History, Theory, Practice presents the most current international scholarship on the complexity and subversive potential of women’s comedic speech, literature, and performance. Earlier comedy theorists such as Freud and Bergson did not envision women as either the agents or audiences of comedy, only as its targets. Only more recently have scholarly studies of comedy begun to recognize and historicize women’s contributions to—and political uses of—comedy. The essays collected here demonstrate the breadth of current scholarship on gender and comedy, spanning centuries of literature and a diversity of methodologies.

Through a reconsideration of literary, theatrical, and mass media texts from the Classical period to the present, Women and Comedy: History, Theory, Practice responds to the historical marginalization and/or trivialization of both women and comedy. The essays collected in this volume assert the importance of recognizing the role of women and comedy in order to understand these texts, their historical contexts, and their possibilities and limits as models for social engagement. In the spirit of comedy itself, these analyses allow for opportunities to challenge and reevaluate the theoretical approaches themselves.



List of Illustrations


Regina Barreca

Introduction: Dorothy Parker’s Headache

Peter Dickinson, Anne Higgins, Paul Matthew St. Pierre, Diana Solomon, Sean


Part I: Histories, Politics and Forms

Laughing Aphrodite

Laurie O’Higgins

Comedy in Ancient Greece and Rome: What Was Funny, Whose Humor Was It,

and How Do We Explain the Jokes without Killing Them?

Barbara Gold

Mary and Her Sisters

Anne Higgins

Feminist Humor without Women: The Challenge of Reading (in) the Middle Ages

Lisa Perfetti

Laugh, or Forever Hold Your Peace: Comic Crowd Control

in Margaret Cavendish’s Dramatic Prologues and Epilogues

Diana Solomon

Domestic Manners of the Americans: A Transatlantic Phenomenon

Linda Morris

Part II: Approaches, Texts and Audiences

The Business of British Burlesque

Jacky Bratton

The Comic Bodies and Obscene Voices of Burlesque

Joanna Mansbridge

Elsie and Doris Waters: Four Songs

Paul Matthew St. Pierre

“I’m Daphne”: On the Comedy of Cross-Dressing and Metamorphosis

in Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, Lubitsch’s I Don’t Want to be a Man,

and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Kay Young

Biting the Hand that Feeds Her: Patronage and Comedy

in Nineteenth-Century Theatre

Gilli Bush-Bailey

Out of the Box: Comedy in Disability Theater by Canadian Women

Kirsty Johnston

Part III: Topics, Theories and Practices

Humoring the Female Pol: Irony, Consciousness-Raising,

and “Third-Culture” Discourse

Tarez Samra Graban

An American Treasure: The Wit and Wisdom of Ann Coulter

A Cautionary Tale: Ann Coulter and the Failure of Humor

Sean Zwagerman

Lesbian Stand-Up Comics and the Politics of Laughter

Joanne Gilbert

Layla Siddiqui as Holy Fool in Little Mosque on the Prairie

Shannon Hengen

Postmodernity and the Gendered Uses of Political Satire

Lisa Colletta

Coda: Try This at Home

Peter Dickinson