The Vernacular Vision and the Visual Vernacular
This chapter discusses vernacular humor and how it depends on a carefully constructed rhetoric of artlessness. It, however, owes its cultural import to political meanings that gained traction after the American Revolution as American language and literature self-consciously diverged from British models. The classic vernacular style frames lack of linguistic and educational polish as political virtue, evidence of a figure’s distance from corrupt social practices. Mark Twain played with vernaculars, but his most influential use of the style built on its heritage of political satire. The vernacular vision, according to James Cox, conveys character and experience and critiques social values and norms as it mocks conventional modes of expression and representation. Rejection of conventional literary language, characters, and plots gives ironic significance and status to their vulgar, comparatively realistic counterparts.
Keywords: vernacular humor, rhetoric of artlessness, cultural import, political meanings, American Revolution