Time Traveling Titters: Hopping Through History's Hilarious Highlights

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Humor can help readers connect with your articles more readily. Humor also can serve to highlight your individual perspective on an issue.

Humor in the Ancient World

Stephen Halliwell's Greek Laughter: A Study of Cultural Psychology from Homer to Early Christianity and Mary Beard's Laughter in Ancient Rome are among the many works on ancient comedy written, but these studies tend to take an "Hellenistic or Hellenized Roman perspective", asking what it meant for those not native to Greece's culture to read Thersites from Homer or Aristophanes or Menander's playwrights whose jokey characters included Thersites or his fellow Athenians such as Aristophanes or Menander's comedic portrayals.

Tacitus was surprising in that he used humor to challenge authority figures much in the same way many of us today do. Houston and O'Neil do an outstanding job of showing how similar this type of usage was between ancient Greece and modern society by considering all of their various examples of comedy situations that exist between both time periods. This volume provides a window onto this fascinating phenomenon that helps readers appreciate both the ancients' and moderns' sense of what constitutes humor through analysis of descriptions given for humorous situations by both.

Egyptians, with their iconic irreverence and irreverent sense of humor, have recently come back into focus as a result of Tahrir Square protests this year. Ward points out how a hieroglyphic inscription on Hatshepsut's tomb shows her depicted as grossly obese while her tall and dignified husband (who stands tall and dignified) appears lean and slim - this being yet another reminder that even during such solemn moments as burial ceremonies the ancient Egyptians could still have fun.

Humor in the Middle Ages

Medieval Europe was home to traveling minstrels - entertainers similar to old-fashioned stand-up comics - who would perform amusing jokes and tall tales for audiences live. Though numerous references exist within medieval literature regarding these performers, no concrete records of their repertoires have ever been identified until now. James Wade, an English scholar from Cambridge University, unknowingly discovered an ultra-rare manuscript detailing a medieval minstrel's live work including their name, first and last names, payment and instrument details as well as any performances taking place within it. The Heege Manuscript was written in 1515 by Johann Heege and had never before been studied. Wade conducted extensive research on this manuscript and discovered its many fascinating aspects that demonstrate how humorous performance could be playful yet casual, sophisticated yet subversive at once.

This issue of The Medieval Humor Reader features research into medieval humor spanning a spectrum from morally astute satire to tales of sexual deviancy and trickery, and other accounts such as Stephen Knight's account of the sixteenth-century fabliau Iest of Dane Hew of Leicester demonstrate that medieval sexual vulgarity was part of its cultural matrix and expressed itself through comedy; contrary to Enlightenment depictions, Knight demonstrates that comedy flourished during medieval ages despite Enlightenment depictions that depict medieval periods as crude or degenerates; medieval comedy was an integral part of medieval society that allowed its expression;

This collection explores how humor-inspired engagement with the Middle Ages has contributed to postmedieval medievalism, specifically postmedieval medievalism of postmedieval origins. Medievalist laughter may seem absurd, yet its historical material can help us gain greater insight into the human sense of humor and our relative positionality within history; while also challenging established wisdom regarding its subversive qualities or our tendency to laugh at things from our past even when meant in good faith.

Humor in the Renaissance

The sixteenth century saw an extraordinary surge of humor: comedies outnumbered both history plays and tragedies three to one on Renaissance stage stages, yet this period has received less critical consideration; Renaissance comedy study remains a relatively novel field. Hayes examines the foundational theory that underlies this work, with particular attention given to its use of aggressive satire that was so characteristic of this period's writing. Hayes observes that such humor frequently serves as a weapon against individuals or draws attention to specific social problems; additionally it fuels religious conflicts by creating humorous dialogue between contemporaries from both sides of the church denomination divide joking about perceived acts that violate religious dogma by other groups.

Hayes shows how this tradition had an influence on Renaissance writers' understandings of humor and drama. These jokes often included crude or sexual elements that may offend modern sensibilities, yet these comedic pieces originated within an earlier tradition that included medieval inheritances as well as nondramatic sources like jest books. He further shows how these traditions impacted Renaissance authors when considering humor and drama as genres.

Hayes has produced an invaluable text for those interested in theater history or Renaissance literature, especially those unfamiliar with its works under discussion. Hayes provides ample contextualizing material including translations. He strives to go beyond simply offering jokes to demonstrate Renaissance comedy's potential contribution as an alternative genre; especially since films like "Needle in a Timestack" try to follow in "Drunk History's" footsteps by simply exploiting comedy for shock value; his book reminds us that humor plays a deep and complex part in human history - something "Needle in a Timestack" attempts to exploit.

Humor in the 19th Century

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in both Europe and North America, humor became an effective means of managing radical social change. Humorists employed conventional literary forms like letters or essays with humorous content written humorously as well as vernacular language and common experiences to convey their messages. Heidi Hakkarainen shows in Comical Modernity how nineteenth-century Viennese comedy did not serve only coffeehouse elites; rather it provided an accessible channel through which ordinary people could manage social shifts themselves.

American nineteenth-century humorists created a distinct, popular genre known as Down East humor. Published initially in newspapers, this style of wit featured earthy subject matter and character types, often using common folk characters to ridicule public figures while often withholding their identities to prevent charges of libel. Primary practitioners were white men working as newspaper editors, doctors, lawyers, planters, ministers, and officials in local or state government and newspaper editors; most common practitioners of Down East humor were white male editors themselves - newspaper editors being white men working as newspaper editors who served newspapers editors who worked as newspaper editors while using common folk characters voices when ridiculing public figures while often hiding behind anonymity to avoid charges of libel lawsuits from becoming victims themselves.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) was one of the pioneers of Down East humor. His 1891 publication, The Biglow Papers, used fictional Yankee farmer Hosea Biglow to criticize America's involvement in the Mexican-American War irrationally and to express his convictions that national leadership was making grave errors. Lowell used untutored New England dialect satiric verse to convey these beliefs that national leadership were making grave miscalculations.

Fanny Fern (1811-1872), was an early American humorist known for her satirical and proto-feminist writing under the pen name Fanny Fern. Under this pen name she published humorous sketches that ridiculed genteel manners and conventions, especially patriarchal attitudes that oppress women. Fern also adopted and adapted many tall tale traditions of southern frontier humorists which celebrated rural living while denouncing industrialization.

Humor in the 20th Century

Humor provides an introspective view into any historical moment, illuminating cultural expectations and contradictions, along with anxieties and confusions. A skilled artist can harness humor for powerful effects. This book investigates its usage throughout the twentieth century.

Early 20th-century humor witnessed a revolution, as new forms emerged. Slapstick and wordplay became prevalent during silent film era, while satirical comedy saw increased recognition due to writers addressing social concerns through comedy writing.

At this time, authors such as Franz Kafka and Gunter Grass explored darkly humorous depictions of the future, while Thomas Mann provided a tragic farce depicting Germany's descent into madness. Meanwhile British writers George Bernard Shaw and W. Somerset Maughm created comedies of manners while mystery writers Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also used humor in their works.

From early films that featured comical slapstick and wordplay to Seinfeld and other contemporary television shows with dry humor, this volume traces the evolution of humor in modern society. An invaluable resource for courses on literature, history, cultural studies, creative writing or children's literature.

Be it watching Harriet Tubman whip her slave hunters with a chicken or laughing along with Puritan-era comedians during a comedy sketch, we discover humor as part of human nature and has been an essential ingredient in shaping human history. The humor collected here will not only engage readers but will also allow students of history to gain an appreciation of its role in humankind's quest for freedom, justice and peace.


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