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Cruelty and Laughter
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Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental Eighteenth Century

Simon Dickie


Eighteenth-century British culture is often seen as polite and sentimental—the creation of an emerging middle class. This book disputes these assumptions, plunging into the forgotten comic literature of the age. Beneath the surface of Enlightenment civility, it uncovers a rich vein of cruel humor that forces us to recognize just how slowly ordinary human sufferings became worthy of sympathy. Delving into an enormous archive of comic novels, jestbooks, farces, variety shows, and cartoons, the author finds a vast repository of jokes about cripples, blind men, rape, and wife-beating. Epigrams abo ... More

Keywords: emerging middle class, comic literature, enlightenment civility, human sufferings, sympathy, comic novels, jestbooks, farces, variety shows, cartoons

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2011 Print ISBN-13: 9780226146188
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226146201.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Simon Dickie, author