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History of Humor: U.S. Frontier

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

U.S. frontier humor, also known as the humor of the Old Southwest, was a genre that flourished in the South and the then-Southwest between the mid-1830s and the Civil War. It was mainly the work of White professionals (all men), who, by birth or migration, lived in the region. Most of them were writers only by avocation. The materials they treated were favorable to humorous writers, because, as James H. Justus has succinctly noted, their subject matter grew out of a “permeable” culture, one favoring fluidity in social and economic relations and advocating egalitarian principles. This entry provides a historical overview of U.S. frontier humor; describes its forms, subject matter, and defining features; discusses its practitioners; points out its relationship to U.S. antebellum print culture; ...

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