A Very Serious Thing: Women's Humor and American Culture by Nancy A. Walker

By Nancy A. Walker

A Very critical factor was first released in 1988. Minnesota Archive variations makes use of electronic expertise to make long-unavailable books once more obtainable, 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 critical Thing is the 1st book-length research of part of American literature that has been continually missed through students and underrepresented in anthologies—American women's funny writing. Nancy Walker proposes that the yank funny culture to be redefined to incorporate women's humor in addition to men's, simply because, opposite to well known opinion, girls do have a feeling of humor.

Her e-book attracts on background, 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 stand-up comedian. instead of a learn of person writers, the ebook 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 excellent of the "lady," and masses of women's humor turns out to simply accept, whereas truly denying, this excellent. actually, such a lot of yank women's funny writing has been a feminist critique of yank tradition and its attitudes towards girls, in accordance with the author.

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Example text

More amusing and more self-aware is the narrator in Betty MacDonald's 1945 best-seller The Egg and /, who attempts to become the "perfect wife": "somewhere between a Grant Wood painting, an Old Dutch Cleanser advertisement, and Mrs. "30 But even though she realizes that she is aspiring to popular images of model wifehood, MacDonald's narrator continues her comical—and doomed—attempts at perfection in that role. In both cases, the author locates the error not in the individual woman, but in a culture that sets the standards for her behavior and performance.

Despite his perhaps commercial motive in urging Frances Whitcher to continue writing humorous sketches for his Gazette ("Our readers ... almost despise 'Neal's' if the Widow be not there" [x]), Joseph Neal claims for this female writer a power that neither she nor virtually any other American woman has been granted by the culture in which she lived: the power to alter society rather than merely to live 17 The Female Humorist in America within its strictures governing her role and behavior. Neal is on the safest ground, of course, with the category of "moralists" in this passage, because women were generally regarded as innately the vessels for and enforcers of the nation's moral and religious doctrines.

Aunt Maguire, in a series of sketches written for Godey's Lady's Book in 1847, is a far more sympathetic character than either the Widow Spriggins or the Widow Bedott, but the small-town society upon which she comments is peopled with selfish social-climbers who have acquiesced fully to the artificiality and excesses of mid-nineteenth-century middle-class gentility: the sort of people whose tastelessness and hypocrisy Mark Twain would later parody in Huck Finn. As accurate and pointed as Whitcher's social satire is, however— and as popular as it was with contemporary readers3—she became 18 The Female Humorist in America aware by the close of the 1840's that, as a social corrective, her work had been ineffectual.

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