• Jillian Heydt-Stevenson


Austen’s Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied History highlights Austen’s interest in the body, popular culture, material history, and subversive linguistic play The unbecoming conjunctions between her spontaneous delight in absurdity and her social criticism reveal that the humor in all her novels frequently provides an outlet for her hostility toward ideologies that dominate women. Her humor, that is, can be purposely aggressive or “tendentious.” Freud asserts that “to the human psyche all renunciation is exceedingly difficult, and so we find that tendentious jokes provide a means of undoing the renunciation and retrieving what was lost” (Jokes 101). Joking, thus, “circumvents” censorship—the obstacle that stands in the way of satisfaction—by disguising “lustful or hostile” instincts and then satisfying those instincts in a way that society permits. In Freud’s opinion, “women’s incapacity to tolerate undisguised sexuality, an incapacity correspondingly increased with a rise in the educational and social level” provides the impediment (Jokes 101). He illustrates the limits of applying male-oriented critiques to women’s humor, especially for Austen’s bawdy humor. Her transgressive comedy isolates such biased ideology and maneuvers its borders through a humor that voices unacceptable expressions about sexuality and gender politics.


Popular Culture Social Criticism Comic Figure Material History Human Psyche 
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© Jillian Heydt-Stevenson 2005

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  • Jillian Heydt-Stevenson

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