Research Stream

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Humours of the mind: comic persuasion in early modern English literature

This project surveys the evidence for changing conceptions about humour as a persuasive emotion in the early modern period. It investigates the Aristotelian tradition of thinking about the risible and explores how that tradition illuminates occasions of comic persuasion in the period as well as dramatic representations of it.

Humours of the mind: comic persuasion in early modern English literature

Image:  "The Laughing Jester" 15th Century. National Art Museum of Sweden. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This project surveys the evidence for changing conceptions about humour as a persuasive emotion in the early modern period. It investigates the Aristotelian tradition of thinking about the risible and explores how that tradition illuminates occasions of comic persuasion in the period as well as dramatic representations of it.

The project has two parts. First, it examines the changing concept of ‘humour’. How did the word develop from a category denoting a physiological substance and psychological state towards a word denoting also, and more specifically, the emotional side of apprehending the laughable? What other emotions were thought to be relevant to the experience of humour? Second, it relates ideas of humourous psychology to rhetoric in theory and practice. Both parts are the grounds for a more extensive investigation to come of persuasive humour in the satirical contexts of both early modernity and contemporary Australian media.

Publiations

Derrin, Daniel. “Humour and the Unacceptable in Neil Hamburger’s Routine” PORTAL: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, (in press, 2014).

Derrin, Daniel. “The Humorous Unseemly: Value, Contradiction and Consistency in the Comic Politics of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Shakespeare (2014): 1-21.

Derrin, Daniel. “Shakespearean Comedy,” in Encyclopedia of Humor Studies ed. S. Attardo, 684-688, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014).