‘Derisive Laughter’: On Superiority, Katherine Mansfield and ‘Miss Brill’

  • Jonathan TaylorEmail author


Katherine Mansfield’s famous short story, ‘Miss Brill’ (1920), stages an anticlimactic moment, in which the main character’s epiphanic vision of a communitarian form of laughter is undercut by the derisive laughter of a young girl at Miss Brill’s expense. In this way, the story might be seen as a kind of extended joke, bringing into close proximity the two polarised forms of laughter which have been the focus of previous chapters: transcendental laughter and the laughter of superiority. Ultimately, though, the joke fails, according to various theoretical definitions—and the chapter concludes by investigating the limitations of a politically conservative laughter, based on superiority and isolation rather than equality.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ArtsUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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