Humour in Chinese Life and Culture: Resistance and Control in Modern Times

Hong Kong University Press
2
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This book investigates the use of humor in the public sphere and in personal life in China. The contributors cover modern and contemporary forms -- comic films and novels, cartooning, pop-songs, internet jokes, and humor in advertising and education. The second of two multidisciplinary volumes designed for the general reader as well as academic audiences, the book explores the relationship between political control and popular expression of humor, including the mutual exchange of comic stereotypes between China and Japan, and draws out important methodological implications for psychological and cross-cultural studies of humor.
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About the author

Jessica Milner Davis researches crosscultural humor and comedy at the University of Sydney, Australia. A life member of Clare Hall Cambridge and past president, International Society for Humor Studies, she convenes the Australasian Humour Studies Network (www.sydney.edu.au/humourstudies).

Jocelyn Chey is a visiting professor at the University of Sydney, whose research interests include Chinese culture and international relations. Her lengthy diplomatic career concluded with a posting to Hong Kong as consul general for Australia (1992--1995).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Hong Kong University Press
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Published on
Jun 1, 2013
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Pages
388
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ISBN
9789888139231
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Asian / Chinese
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A Very Serious Thing was first published in 1988. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

"It is a very serious thing to be a funny woman." –Frances Miriam Berry Whitcher

A Very Serious Thing is the first book-length study of a part of American literature that has been consistently neglected by scholars and underrepresented in anthologies—American women's humorous writing. Nancy Walker proposes that the American humorous tradition to be redefined to include women's humor as well as men's, because, contrary to popular opinion, women do have a sense of humor.

Her book draws on history, sociology, anthropology, literature, and psychology to posit that the reasons for neglect of women's humorous expression are rooted in a male-dominated culture that has officially denied women the freedom and self-confidence essential to the humorist. Rather than a study of individual writers, the book is an exploration of relationships between cultural realities—including expectations of "true womanhood"—and women's humorous response to those realities.

Humorous expression, Walker maintains, is at odds with the culturally sanctioned ideal of the "lady," and much of women's humor seems to accept, while actually denying, this ideal. In fact, most of American women's humorous writing has been a feminist critique of American culture and its attitudes toward women, according to the author.

How do Chinese societies approach humour in personal life and in the public sphere? This book addresses the etymological difficulties of "humour" as a concept in Chinese language and explores connections and contrasts with Western styles of humour. Periods discussed range from earliest times to the beginning of the twentieth century, covering many different forms of humour - verbal, visual and behavioural. The book brings together internationally respected scholars in Chinese studies with other specialists to explore humour through modes of enquiry in cultural and political history, linguistics, literature, drama and the history and philosophy of science. 

The unifying focus of the book is humour and laughter in their many forms in Chinese tradition and culture. Chapters are written in a common style. Readers more generally interested in humour and laughter — not well-understood forms of human behaviour — will also find the book casts light on significant differences in their concepts and practice between cultures. 

"An excellent insight into classical and traditional approaches. Chinese humour is unique and important, and there has long been a need for an erudite and comprehensive account of its nature, philosophy and history." — Christie Davies, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Reading, UK
 
"It gives me great pleasure to endorse this wonderful publication co-edited by esteemed academics. This book will be very helpful to anyone wanting to understand or do business with China." — Patrick WU Po Kong, Standing Committee Member of The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong 

"Humour in Chinese Life and Letters is a highly engaging, thought-provoking, and most enjoyable book. Breaking new ground in the comparative study of humour and laughter, this book has shown me that many things are found — rather than lost — in translation." — Giselinde Kuipers, Norbert Elias Professor of Sociology, Erasmus University & University of Amsterdam 

"A timely contribution to the sparse literature on the history and expression of humour in Chinese society. Carefully annotated with original Chinese sources, this is a valuable reference and an enjoyable introduction to a poorly understood but integral aspect of everyday Chinese life." — Kee Pookong, Professor and Director, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne 

"Humor is serious business anywhere. It can also be dangerous. Humour in Chinese Life and Letters, Jocelyn Chey and Jessica Milner Davis’s two-volume collection of essays on aspects of humor in Chinese literature, daily life and art over the last three millennium, is a remarkable testament to the enduring importance of humor throughout the Chinese dynasties up to the present, to elements of its continuity, and of its changes over this time." — Asian Review of Books, 1 October 2013  

"If you are seeking edification on the topic of humor in China rather than an anthology of humor, then this book is a wonderful place to start. It contains contributions by ten scholars [...] who write about a broad but highly selective spectrum of humor in China, from the Confucian Analects of the pre-Qin era to Lin Yutang’s Analects Fortnightlyjournal in the 1930s. [...] What the reader will find in this volume is an impeccably researched and valuable addition to the sparse field of studies in English on humor in China." — Journal of the American Oriental Society 132.2 (2012)

"This enjoyable volume explores similarities and contrasts with Western aspects of humour in a comparative perspective, and presents several facets of analogous phenomena in traditional and modern China, from the earliest times to the first decades of the twentieth century. It covers many different forms of humour—verbal, visual and behavioural—in literature and the arts, drama, history and philosophy, in private life and in the public sphere." — Ming Qing Studies, 2013

Front Cover Image:
Image from Vibeke Børdahl and Jette Ross, Chinese Storytellers (2002), courtesy of the authors. 

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