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How the Other Half LaughsThe Comic Sensibility in American Culture, 1895-1920$
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Jean Lee Cole

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781496826527

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496826527.001.0001

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Rising from the Gutter

Rising from the Gutter

(p.67) Chapter Two Rising from the Gutter
How the Other Half Laughs

Jean Lee Cole

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter shows how the early comic strip was developed and then came to influence comic fiction in the early twentieth century. As the editor of the New York Journal‘s comic supplement, Rudolph Block regularized the use of panels, repetitive storylines, and caricature, resulting in the multi-panel format that defines the comic-strip genre. Block’s role in the development of the comic strip has gone largely unrecognized; as a writer of Jewish American literature, Block has been forgotten. Using the pseudonym Bruno Lessing, Block published nearly a hundred stories between 1905 and 1920 in popular magazines. These humorous stories, full of rich dialect and accompanied by vibrant illustrations, translated the multiethnic culture of the Lower East Side for a mainstream, English-speaking audience. Block represented dialect and caricature as opportunities for negotiation and play, providing ways to display identity in multiple and shifting forms.

Keywords:   Rudolph Block, Bruno Lessing, New York Journal, Dialect fiction, Jewish American literature

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