Cole, Jean Lee: How the Other Half Laughs. The Comic Sensibility in American Culture, 1895-1920. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2020. (200 S.)
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|Resource type: Book
ID no. (ISBN etc.): 9781496826527
BibTeX citation key: Cole2020
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Keywords: Art, Comic strip, Ethnicity, Humor, Journalism, Literature, USA
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi (Jackson)
Taking up the role of laughter in society, How the Other Half Laughs: The Comic Sensibility in American Culture, 1895–1920 examines an era in which the US population was becoming increasingly multiethnic and multiracial. Comic artists and writers, hoping to create works that would appeal to a diverse audience, had to formulate a method for making the “other half” laugh. In magazine fiction, vaudeville, and the comic strip, the oppressive conditions of the poor and the marginalized were portrayed unflinchingly, yet with a distinctly comic sensibility that grew out of caricature and ethnic humor.
Author Jean Lee Cole analyzes Progressive Era popular culture, providing a critical angle to approach visual and literary humor about ethnicity—how avenues of comedy serve as expressions of solidarity, commiseration, and empowerment. Cole’s argument centers on the comic sensibility, which she defines as a performative act that fosters feelings of solidarity and community among the marginalized.
Cole stresses the connections between the worlds of art, journalism, and literature and the people who produced them—including George Herriman, R. F. Outcault, Rudolph Dirks, Jimmy Swinnerton, George Luks, and William Glackens—and traces the form’s emergence in the pages of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal-American and how it influenced popular fiction, illustration, and art. How the Other Half Laughs restores the newspaper comic strip to its rightful place as a transformative element of American culture at the turn into the twentieth century.
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