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By Nancy A. Walker

A Very severe factor was first released in 1988. Minnesota Archive variants makes use of electronic expertise to make long-unavailable books once more available, and are released unaltered from the unique college of Minnesota Press editions.

"It is a truly critical factor to be a humorous woman." –Frances Miriam Berry Whitcher

A Very severe Thing is the 1st book-length research of part of American literature that has been continuously overlooked via students and underrepresented in anthologies—American women's funny writing. Nancy Walker proposes that the yankee funny culture to be redefined to incorporate women's humor in addition to men's, simply because, opposite to well known opinion, ladies do have a feeling of humor.

Her e-book attracts on historical past, sociology, anthropology, literature, and psychology to posit that the explanations for forget of women's funny expression are rooted in a male-dominated tradition that has formally denied girls the liberty and self-confidence necessary to the slapstick comedian. instead of a examine of person writers, the publication is an exploration of relationships among cultural realities—including expectancies of "true womanhood"—and women's funny reaction to these realities.

Humorous expression, Walker keeps, is at odds with the culturally sanctioned perfect of the "lady," and masses of women's humor turns out to just accept, whereas truly denying, this excellent. actually, so much of yankee women's funny writing has been a feminist critique of yankee tradition and its attitudes towards girls, in response to the author.

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Extra info for A Very Serious Thing: Women's Humor and American Culture

Sample text

The figure of "Jonathan," the quintessential Yankee, common in the American humorous tradition from the colonial period to the early twentieth century, is disarmingly ambivalent: he makes ignorance a virtue both to prove his innocent superiority to corrupt European values and traditions and also to arm himself against the unknowns that surround him: wilderness, "savages," new political philosophies, and the wonders of a corporate and technological society. He is insightful without being pompous; he can strut without violating his innocence.

5 Implicit in this statement is the assumption that it was normal for women to be sentimental fools and shrewish gossips —that such behavior arose from "tranquility" and "sanity," when in fact it was the very absence of these conditions that Whitcher sought to present. 6 In addition to the fact that she has her major humorous personae behave in so ridiculous a manner as to discourage imitation, Whitcher also provides other characters who speak in a countering tone of reason and sanity. In the Widow Spriggins sketches, for example, Permilly Spriggins's two sisters represent opposing views of her behavior in imitating Amanda in The Children of the Abbey.

As corollary to this point, the audience for women's humor, as has also been true of women's literature generally, is primarily other women. "27 Put simply, men have increasingly found her work amusing and relevant because they understand what she is writing about. 29 The Female Humorist in America The fact that for so long most men did not understand in any truly personal way what female humorists were writing about may go a long way toward explaining why women's humor has been consistently under-represented in anthologies and in studies of American humor.

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