Mirth making : the rhetorical discourse on jesting in early modern England /
Chris Holcomb.
Columbia : University of South Carolina Press, c2001.
viii, 230 p.
1570033978 (alk. paper)
More Details
Columbia : University of South Carolina Press, c2001.
1570033978 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2002-01-01:
The jests and jokes of early modern England often seem pointless or at best lame to modern readers. For example, a country bumpkin fails to recognize the king in procession. When the royal presence is pointed out to him, believing he is being mocked, he responds, "'Methinks that is a man in a painted garment.'" Not much of a punch line, but Holcomb (Texas A & M, College Station) aptly demonstrates how this and countless other seemingly feeble jokes contributed to and defined the nature of early modern communication. Locating the origins of jest as a rhetorical tool in the Roman forum, the author traces the rhetorical uses of and theoretical opposition to jesting through English sermons, theological disputes, and courtesy books to illustrate the jest's destabilization of class. Holcomb includes a wealth of examples from early modern literature--Castiglione, Erasmus, Wilson--and places these examples in the theoretical context of, for example, Bakhtin and Freud. Earlier works, notably Wayne Rebhorn's Courtly Performances (CH, Jan'79) and Leah Marcus's The Politics of Mirth (1986), significantly increased sensitivity to the importance of jesting and play in early modern literature; Holcomb's volume contributes admirably to the study of the rhetorical and social significance of the jest. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D. Aldrich-Watson University of Missouri--St. Louis
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Choice, January 2002
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Unpaid Annotation
"Mirth Making" examines the complex and often contradictory ways in which writers of rhetoric and courtesy manuals during the English Renaissance counseled their readers on the powers and hazards of jesting. Shedding light on a subject largely neglected by contemporary scholars, Holcomb's pathbreaking study demonstrates how such humor-related advice points to and participates in broader cultural phenomena -- most notably the era's increase in social and geographic mobility and the contest between authority and subversion.Describing the English Renaissance as a brief but crucial phase in the history of jesting discourse, Holcomb differentiates humor-related counsel of the period from that of classical and medieval sources by its focus on communication between people of different stations. Holcomb shows that, in a changing society, handbook writers presented jesting as a socially conservative force and suggests that with a well-placed jest or quip, an orator might enhance his status and persuasive power or,shame and ridicule those beneath him.Holcomb also recognizes, however, that rhetoricians confronted significant challenges as they sought to capture, explain, and teach a strategy both powerful and chaotic, elusive and ubiquitous, highly economical in form and potentially unpredictable in effect. Holcomb concludes that because of the disruptive energies inherent in jesting, rhetoricians of the English Renaissance could not escape the fact that jesting is always a flirtation with disaster.
Table of Contents
Series Editor's Preface
Introductionp. 1
Jesting Situationsp. 28
The Topoi, or "Places," of Jesting: Official and Unofficial Territoriesp. 80
Point out Something Unseemly in No Unseemly Manner: Orators, Courtiers, and Buffoonsp. 113
Audience: The Many-Headed Monsterp. 152
Notesp. 183
Bibliographyp. 209
Indexp. 217
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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