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Schwank

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

Schwank is a German term, now also used internationally, which originally meant a practical joke. Presently it denotes a rather short humorous narrative, song, or play depicting a comical action. As opposed to the even shorter joke, it is more epic; and the point is not at the end but within the story. On occasions, there may be two or even three punch lines. There is, however, not always a strict borderline between schwank and joke. In the three volumes of The Types of International Folktales, schwanks are listed under the heading “Jokes and Anecdotes.” The present entry analyzes structure and style as well as the historical development of schwank and gives a summary of its predominant themes and motifs.

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