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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining 'Golden Bough' Style Story of Humour, 22 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: History of English Humour, Vol. 1 With an Introduction upon Ancient Humour (Kindle Edition)
I was not sure what to expect when I downloaded this free kindle book and its second volume but it was free so I thought what the heck and I am really glad I took the chance because I am thoroughly enjoying these books. I am currently reading them as 'a-chapter-before-bedtime' and never stick to one chapter because the subject is so fascinating and it is discussed in such an entertaining way. If you have read Herodotus's histories or Sir James Frazer's classic 'The Golden Bough' then you will have an idea what to expect - an encyclopaedic review of everything the author has gleaned from his researches on the subject of humour, put together in a vaguely historical order, and held together by an interpretive theme which is less an explanation of the subject than a narrative technique for keeping the rich material organised into bite-sized, appetising snacks for the imagination. People do not write like this anymore - supposedly no one has the time to read lengthy prose so no one bothers to write it - and that is a pity because when well-done (and I like this author's tone and style very much) it is very rewarding and well-worth the time invested. Actually, it is so well done that I am unaware of the time and as I said before I intend to read for twenty minutes and find an hour has gone by already before I glance at the clock. This is a discussion about humour, it is written in a charming, urbane, entertaining way and raises a few smiles and chuckles en route but it is not a 'comedy' so don't read it expecting laugh aloud hilarity. In addition to the light entertainment, there are nuggets of information and 'food for thought' which bounces the question back to the reader - um, yeah, just what IS humour? Contemporary studies trot out explanations of humour in terms of 'evolutionary psychology' or 'neuroscience' and these accounts are unsatisfying because they take 'humour' as given - what contemporary Western people think humour is today is treated as if it were the universal definition of humour and this constant is then projected back, not into the historic past, but into an imaginary prehistory where, supposedly, the forces of nature formed Man and his capacity for laughter. Out-dated as these two volumes on humour undoubtedly are in some ways, they nevertheless remain intellectually stimulating and relevant to contemporary academic research because they show the huge cultural and historical variety of 'humour' which as a consequence emerges as something largely dependent on cultural context not the hard-wired brain - a rebuttal, then, to overly simplistic evolutionary or psychological or neurological accounts of humour. So, you can read these two volumes for entertainment, read them as a mine of fascinating but useless information about obscure traditions and forgotten authors or read it as a counter-argument against overly reductive contemporary thinking on humour and other forms of human behaviour. And all this for free! This is a ten-stars kindle book! Download and enjoy :- )
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Location: England

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