‘Unseemly Levity’: On Memoirs, Humour and Edmund Gosse

  • Jonathan TaylorEmail author


In the Preface to his genre-defining memoir, Father and Son (1907), Edmund Gosse talks of the ‘mixture of comedy and tragedy’ in the ensuing work, its intermingling of laughter and tears. This chapter explores the emotional hybridity of Gosse’s memoir, and British literary memoirs since, in relation to questions of genre, religion, psychology, intertextuality and theories of laughter. Whilst laughter in Gosse’s memoir is often conceived as theologically subversive, it also dreams of an angelic or transcendental laughter—of laughter as a kind of pseudo-religious experience which operates beyond superiority and incongruity, and exists only in and for itself.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ArtsUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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