by Jennifer A. Hughes Comics and the U.S. South. Ed. by Brannon Costello and Qiana J. Whitted. Jackson: U of Mississippi P, 2012. 304 pp. $55.00 cloth. Whiting Up: Whiteface Minstrels and Stage Europeans in African American Performance. By Marvin Edward McAllister. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2011. 336 pp. $39.95 cloth. Southern literary humor—from the early frontier humorists such as Augustus Baldwin Longstreet and Henry Clay Lewis to large-looming later fi g- ures like Mark Twain, Flannery O’Connor, and Zora Neale Hurston—tends to be vivacious, rough-and-tumble, and willing to engage with a regional history fraught with abjection, violence, and terror. It becomes an urgent challenge to understand what we are laughing at, and what it means to laugh, when confronted by texts containing the abduction of the corpse of a black infant (Lewis’s “Stealing a Baby”) or a mother swapping her son with her charge to ensure him a life of white privilege (Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson). We may consult many theorists of humor to grapple with such discomfi ting comical- ity, ranging from Th omas Hobbes to Sigmund Freud, from Mikhail Bakhtin to Ralph Ellison (his essay “An Extravagance of Laughter” is brilliant). Th e best
The Southern Literary Journal – University of North Carolina Press
Published: May 29, 2015
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