This book offers a fresh examination of literary wit as a distinct variety of discourse - one that is fundamentally different from wit, humour and laughter in nonliterary contexts. Bruce Michelson moves beyond outmoded assumptions and canonical authorities to explore how wit can transform fiction, plays and poetry, providing ""a fire that keeps our imaginative literature hot"". Michelson argues that to achieve a modernized and less-reductive understanding of the comic mode, conventional ideas must be extended, refreshed, qualified and ultimately left behind. Revisiting Bergson, Freud, Bakhtin and other authorities, he develops a new description of literary wit, with an emphasis on brevity, eloquence and surprise, and gives special attention to the power and provenance of the modern epigram. To develop this new approach, Michelson explores Mark Twain's ""Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"" and Oscar Wilde's ""Preface"" to ""The Picture of Dorian Gray"". He also offers an extended discussion of two more recent celebrated dramas - Tom Stoppard's ""Arcadia"" and Margaret Edson's Pulitzer-winning ""Wit"" - as well as insightful readings of major poems by Richard Wilbur. He concludes with a suggestive look at the contemporary revolution in cognitive science and its implications for our understanding of the comic dimension in modern literature.
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Number of pages: 192
Weight: 318 g
Dimensions: 230 x 154 x 16 mm
This is a work of vast reading and considered judgment. Some of the notes are really exquisite little essays -- provocative and intelligent in and of themselves.... As for the literary analysis, which constitutes the major portion of the book, it is lucid, acute, and compelling.--Tom Quirk, author of Coming to Grips with Huckleberry Finnand Mark Twain: A Study of the Short Fiction.
A great read -- clever, engaging, and extremely valuable to my own thinking about wit and humor as critical tools for understanding major writers.--David E. Sloane, editor of American Humor: New Studies, New Directions