Cheeky Fictions: Laughter and the Postcolonial

Cheeky Fictions: Laughter and the Postcolonial

Cheeky Fictions: Laughter and the Postcolonial

Cheeky Fictions: Laughter and the Postcolonial


Humour is a key feature, laughter a central element, disrespect a vital textual strategy of postcolonial transcultural practice. Devices such as irony, parody, and subversion, can be subsumed under an interventionist stance and have accordingly received some critical attention. But literary and cultural postcolonial criticism has been marked by a restraint verging on the pious towards the wider significance and functions of laughter. This collection transcends such orthodoxies: laughter can constitute an intervention - but it can also function otherwise. The essays collected here take an interest in the strategic use of what can loosely be termed laughter - in all its manifestations. Examining postcolonial transcultural practice from a range of disciplinary and methodological perspectives, this study seeks to analyse laughter and the postcolonial in their complexity. For the first time, then, this collection gathers a group of international specialists in postcolonial transcultural studies to analyse the functions of laughter, the comic and humour in a wide range of cultural texts. Contributors work on texts from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, the Caribbean, and Britain, reading work by authors such as Zakes Mda, Timothy Mo, VS Naipaul, and Zadie Smith. This interdisciplinary collection is a contribution to both, postcolonial studies and humour theory.


Susanne Reichl and Mark Stein

I must warn you, reader, that it is not the purpose of this book to make you
laugh. As you know, nothing kills the laugh quicker than to explain a joke. I
intend to explain all jokes, and the proper and logical outcome will be, not only
that you will not laugh now, but that you will never laugh again. So prepare for
the descending gloom.

– Eastman (1937)

Laughter itself cannot be rationally located; its ridicula, too, resist the grip of
those categories which presuppose meaning.

– Köhler (1997, our translation)

From V.S. Naipaul to Meera Syal, from Mordecai Richler to Zakes Mda: laughter is a central element, humour a key feature, disrespect a vital textual strategy of postcolonial cultural practice. Samuel Selvon’s subtle comedy, Salman Rushdie’s hilarious verbal exploits, Zadie Smith’s multicultural ‘lip’: by different means and to various ends they all provoke laughter. Although the humorous qualities of many postcolonial texts are not to be doubted, so far no sustained attempt to analyse these features and their significance has been undertaken. Opening up further this wide and promising field of research is the remit of this collection of essays.

This book brings together essays commissioned from an international group of specialists in postcolonial studies, whose analyses of anglophone postcolonial cultural production raise questions about the strategic use of what can loosely be termed ‘laughter’ – in all its manifestations. Here, laughter is not considered a cultural attribute of a specific postcolonial space or a marker of an inherent Otherness; laughter is rather considered a device . . .

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