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Twain's BrandHumor in Contemporary American Culture$
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Judith Yaross Lee

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781617036439

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617036439.001.0001

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Humor and Empire

Humor and Empire

(p.71) Chapter Three Humor and Empire
Twain's Brand

Judith Yaross Lee

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter focuses on the strand of humor that expresses Anglo-American continuity. This strand runs through the present from eighteenth-century English wits. The colonization of African slaves in North America marks the voices and narratives of works as different as Zora Neale Hurston’s Jonah’s Gourd Vine and Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada with African traditions of oral humor. The best-known tradition of American literary humor is the British-American contrast, which applauds America’s divergence from European models of society and government. From its beginnings on the eighteenth-century New England stage, the British-American contrast flaunted America’s regional and immigrant dialects, diverse population, and lack of cosmopolitan polish. It tickled readers on both sides of the Atlantic in the nineteenth century because American claims to international superiority flew incongruously in the face of expanding European empires.

Keywords:   colonization, Anglo-American continuity, African slaves, Zora Neale Hurston, Ishmael Reed

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