Course Description

Course Name

Laughing Victorians

Session: VLNS3422

Hours & Credits

20 UK Credits

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


Assessment: coursework (5000 words)
'We are not amused?, Queen Victoria is famously reputed to have said. And yet, if 19th century novels, poetry and comic periodicals are to be believed, Victorians spent a great deal of time guffawing, giggling, smirking and generally being very amused. But what is the role and the function of laughter in the Victorian period? Is it merely light-hearted fun - a relief from the stresses and strains of Victorian life - or does it have more serious and resonant purposes? And how did the Victorians themselves theorize laughter, both its causes, effects - and its targets? In this course, we trace a genealogy of nineteenth-century humour in a variety of visual and textual forms: from lampoon, illustration and caricature, to nonsense fiction, whimsy and satire (on politics, social types and evolution) to the domestic comedies of high Victorian realism and the identity-challenging quips of fin-de-si├Ęcle laughter. We will also consider what 19th century laughter theorists had to say on the subject, from Charles Darwin to Herbert Spencer, George Meredith, Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud ? and discuss these theories with reference to brief excerpts from modern TV comedies.

*Course content subject to change