First and Last Laughs: Allegories, Hybrids and Histories, 1840–1930

  • Jonathan TaylorEmail author


The opening chapter sets out the critical framework for the ensuing case studies of individual literary works, all of which are conceived as allegories of laughter, or ‘meta-comedies.’ The hybrid nature of laughter, comedy and jokes is explored in historical terms, across the period—from a founding comic text, The Pickwick Papers, to the introduction of the term Schadenfreude into the English language, to its manifestation in later nineteenth-century texts by George Eliot and others, to its most brutal manifestation in the early twentieth century, and the First World War. Alongside this historical dimension, the chapter discusses an alternative form of laughter which seems to exist beyond hybrids, alloys, superiority, Schadenfreude—a transcendental or even apocalyptic laughter.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ArtsUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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