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Title: Humour in children's literature, 1800-1840
Author: Williams, Karen Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 8965
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2017
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By reclaiming a wide range of comic works in key literary genres, my thesis proposes that contrary to prevailing critical discourse, humour was a widespread, intrinsic and valued part of children’s literature in the period 1800-1840. Histories of children’s literature in this era are inexorably tied to an antithetical configuration of instruction versus amusement. Although in recent criticism this binary has been challenged, the critical discussion of amusing texts remains limited to a narrow canon of works operating in opposition to the moral tale and other instructive texts. My thesis widens the scope for humour in this period by interrogating juvenile works and wider print culture in four under-researched areas: the ‘papillonnade’ poetry of the first decades of the nineteenth century, the new phenomenon of the juvenile Christmas annuals, chapbooks for children, and drama as related to the child. Such an approach embraces literature that was accessible to children across the social spectrum and accordingly reveals both synergies and tensions in attitudes towards humour and the use of the comic across the class divide. Underpinning my analysis, is a rich heritage of philosophical and historical approaches to laughter that reveal a complex and dialogic relationship between comedy, the child and these wider perspectives. This critical link allows for a nuanced reading of humorous texts that cements the placement of laughter within the history of children’s literature and anticipates the later humour of better-known works by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear in mid-century.
Supervisor: Haywood, Ian ; Sainsbury, Lisa Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available