Neo-Victorian Humour

Comic Subversions and Unlaughter in Contemporary Historical Re-Visions

Series:

This volume highlights humour’s crucial role in shaping historical re-visions of the long nineteenth century, through modes ranging from subtle irony, camp excess, ribald farce, and aesthetic parody to blackly comic narrative games. It analyses neo-Victorian humour’s politicisation, its ideological functions and ethical implications across varied media, including fiction, drama, film, webcomics, and fashion. Contemporary humour maps the assumed distance between postmodernity and its targeted nineteenth-century referents only to repeatedly collapse the same in a seemingly self-defeating nihilistic project. This collection explores how neo-Victorian humour generates empathy and effective socio-political critique, dispensing symbolic justice, but also risks recycling the past’s invidious ideologies under the politically correct guise of comic debunking, even to the point of negating laughter itself.


"This rich and innovative collection invites us to reflect on the complex and various deployments of humour in neo-Victorian texts, where its consumers may wish at times that they could swallow back the laughter a scene or event provokes. It covers a range of approaches to humour utilised by neo-Victorian writers, dramatists, graphic novelists and filmmakers – including the deliberately and pompously unfunny, the traumatic, the absurd, the ribald, and the frankly distasteful – producing a richly satisfying anthology of innovative readings of ‘canonical’ neo-Victorian texts as well as those which are potential generic outliers. The collection explores what is funny in the neo-Victorian and who we are laughing at – the Victorians, as we like to imagine them, or ourselves, in ways we rarely acknowledge? This is a celebration of the parodic playfulness of a wide range of texts, from fiction to fashion, whilst offering a trenchant critique of the politics of postmodern laughter that will appeal to those working in adaptation studies, gender and queer studies, as well as literary and cultural studies more generally."
- Prof. Imelda Whelehan, University of Tasmania, Australia

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Biographical Note
Marie-Luise Kohlke, Ph.D. (2000) is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Swansea University and General/Founding Editor of Neo-Victorian Studies (http://www.neovictorianstudies.com/). Besides her series co-editorship of Brill | Rodopi’s Neo-Victorian Series, she has published numerous chapters and articles, most recently in Victoriographies.

Christian Gutleben, Ph.D. (1995), is Professor of English literature at the university of Nice Sophia Antipolis (France) where he is also the chief editor of the journal Cycnos. He has published several monographs and many papers on contemporary fiction and film and is the series co-editor of Brill | Rodopis’s Neo-Victorian Series.
Review Quotes
"This rich and innovative collection invites us to reflect on the complex and various deployments of humour in neo-Victorian texts, where its consumers may wish at times that they could swallow back the laughter a scene or event provokes. It covers a range of approaches to humour utilised by neo-Victorian writers, dramatists, graphic novelists and filmmakers – including the deliberately and pompously unfunny, the traumatic, the absurd, the ribald, and the frankly distasteful – producing a richly satisfying anthology of innovative readings of ‘canonical’ neo-Victorian texts as well as those which are potential generic outliers. The collection explores what is funny in the neo-Victorian and who we are laughing at – the Victorians, as we like to imagine them, or ourselves, in ways we rarely acknowledge? This is a celebration of the parodic playfulness of a wide range of texts, from fiction to fashion, whilst offering a trenchant critique of the politics of postmodern laughter that will appeal to those working in adaptation studies, gender and queer studies, as well as literary and cultural studies more generally." – Prof. Imelda Whelehan, University of Tasmania, Australia

“Kohlke & Gutleben’s collection of essays is a valuable addition to the existing research on neo-Victorian fiction and culture, particularly as it is the first work dealing with irony, humour and comedy in neo-Victorianism. Moreover, most chapters included in the book offer interpretations of neo-Victorian cultural texts that have so far enjoyed little scholarly attention. The introduction authored by the editors is especially significant, as it provides an overview of the ideological tensions inherent to neo-Victorian fiction and the role humour plays in this genre, which is innovative in the field of neo-Victorian studies. Its fresh perspective on the ideological agendas and incongruities of neo-Victorian fiction is particularly inspiring for further research in neo-Victorianism and postmodernism.”
-Barbara Braid, Institute of English, Szczecin University, in European Journal of Humour Research Vol.6, No. 3, pp.113-118 (2018)
Table of contents
What’s So Funny about the Nineteenth Century?
Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben

PART I Humour and Metanarratives

1. Parody after Providence: Christianity, Secularism, and the Form of Neo-Victorian Fiction
Miriam Elizabeth Burstein

2. Neo-Victorian Killing Humour: Laughing at Death in the Opium Wars
Marie-Luise Kohlke

3. ‘Bleak Hilarity’ in Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty
Dana Shiller

4. Drainage in a Time of Cholera: History and Humour in Matthew Kneale’s Sweet Thames
Michael L. Ross

PART II Humour and Gender

5. Looking at Victorian Fashion: Not a Laughing Matter
Margaret D. Stetz

6. Neo-Victorian Feminist History and the Political Potential of Humour
Tara MacDonald

7. Good Vibrations: Hysteria, Female Orgasm and Medical Humour in Neo-Victorianism
Monika Pietrzak-Franger and Eckart Voigts
8. “People keep giving me rings, but I think a small death ray might be more practical”: Women and Mad Science in Steampunk Comics Dru Pagliassotti

PART III Humour and Postmodernism:

9. “Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!”: The Neo-Victorian Novel-as-Mashup and the Limits of Postmodern Irony
Megen de Bruin-Molé

10. Camp Heritage: Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm as Neo-Victorian Heritage Spectacle
Christophe Van Eecke

11. Laughing (at) Freaks: “Bending the tune to her will” in Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus and Rosie Garland’s The Palace of Curiosities Saverio Tomaiuolo

12. The Dog Days of Empire: Black Humour and the Bestial in J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur
Ryan D. Fong

Contributors

Index
Readership
All interested in neo-Victorianism; literary and cultural studies; humour studies; theatre, film, gender, and adaptation studies; memory studies; and historians and Victorianists working on the legacies of the nineteenth century.
Index Card
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