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History of Humor: Early Modern Europe

  • By: Robert Phiddian & Will Noonan
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Understanding of what we would now call humor developed in the early modern period, which lasted roughly from 1500 to 1800, under several names and through the performance of increasingly self-conscious literary and cultural activities. It was experienced more as a family of cultural practices associated with laughter and ridicule than any clearly defined concept in the modern sense. Such theory as there was naturally tended to reflect contemporary humor practices: playful techniques of irony, burlesque, and parody all enacted and explored humor and terms associated with it, such as comedy, satire, and carnival. Nevertheless, the period also saw the gradual emergence of the term humor from its roots in ancient medical theory to denote a recognizably modern way of thinking about laughter, the ...

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