The New Woman and Humour

Published on 23 July 2020 par Institut du genre

Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens, n° 96, Spring 2022

In late Victorian satirical magazines, comedies and conversation, the New Woman was an inexhaustible source of fun. For the opponents of women’s emancipation, ridicule was a weapon, which could win them allies even among women. For the feminist writers, ridicule was a constant threat, which they usually negotiated by asserting their womanliness and inviting their readers to take their demands seriously.

Going counter to the perception of the New Woman’s humorlessness, this collection of essays will examine the rich and contradictory ways in which laughter, jokes, satire and comedy were deployed and reconfigured by New Women around the English-speaking world. It will engage with the political uses of humour, as it creates and invites distance. It will consider humorous practises as a source of empowerment: the use of comedy to destabilize power relations and to create a sense of shared enjoyment, community, and sisterhood. How did humour become integrated into feminist rhetorical practices? To what extent is it possible to speak of feminist humour?

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