"We Are Not Amused": Victorian Comedy and Humour (Congress at Victoria BC, June 1-4 2013; Due Nov 1, 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
Victorian Studies Association of Ontario (VSAO) / Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE)
contact email: 

Comedy is under-explored in Victorian literary criticism, but it is pervasive in the texts of the era, from brief moments—Dickens' caricatures and Thackeray's asides—to more extended treatments, in Lear's nonsense verse and Jerome K. Jerome's widely popular Three Men in a Boat.

This panel invites papers that explore comedy, humour and laughter in Victorian literature and cultural productions. What functions did comedy serve in Victorian texts? When is its humour riotous and anarchic, and when does it reinforce norms? How comfortably did comedy sit alongside the period's idealization of moral and artistic solemnity? What effect does laughing at, or laughing with, texts and characters have upon our understanding of them? Why are the comic features of a scene or moment important?

Papers may consider such topics as:

  • Parody, burlesque, farce and satire
  • Ditties, jokes, word-play, wit and puns
  • Black humour and the grotesque
  • Clowning, the circus, and comic performancev
  • "Serious cheerfulness" and the mixing of wit and gravity
  • Savoy Operas and the music hall
  • Eminent Victorians and criticisms of Victorian earnestness
  • Failed humour or humourlessness
  • Caricatures and stereotypes
  • Comedy as social critique or subversive force
  • Sentimental humour
  • The science and philosophy of Victorian laughter

All submissions to ACCUTE-sponsored conferences must include a 700-word proposal, a 100-word abstract, a 50-word biographical statement, and the submitter information form to VSAOatACCUTE@gmail.com by November 1, 2012.

The panel will take place during the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Victoria, Victoria BC, June 1-4, 2013.