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Travesty

  • By: Martha Bayless
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

In literary contexts, a travesty is a type of parody or humorous distortion, in particular one that treats a serious subject comically. In theatrical contexts, travesty denotes the practice of performers playing roles of the opposite sex, a tradition that often lends itself to exaggeration and comedy. In popular parlance, the term is also used to describe a deplorable version of something, most commonly found in the phrase a travesty of justice, or in a shorthand version, as in “The election process was a travesty”; in this last sense, the term does not denote something intentionally comic.

The term in English is originally derived from the French past participle travesti, descended from Italian trans (“across, to the opposite”) and vesti, the past participle of vestire ...

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