Literary Wit

Literary Wit

Literary Wit

Literary Wit

Synopsis

An incisive look at the role of wit in modern literature.

Excerpt

If a man had time to study the history of one word only, wit would perhaps be the best word he could choose.

—C. S. LEWIS

I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.

—OSCAR WILDE

This short book opens a neglected important question. Our conventional descriptions of literary wit have grown archaic and diffuse, and they fail to help us engage well with rich, adventurous texts. Because of deference to values rooted in bygone ideologies and cultural eras, misunderstanding abounds as to what modern literary wit can be, how it can work, and how and why it can matter. For critics and readers, this problem is embarrassing and hurtful, causing us to ignore exciting dimensions of the imaginative art that thrives around us. As a distinct variety of literary discourse—distinct from wit, humor, comedy, and laughter in nonliterary contexts—literary wit can achieve wonderful intensity, complexity, and resonance. As a . . .

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