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Exploring the importance of comedy in contemporary literature and culture

A new book written by an academic at Queen Mary University of London provides an analysis of the role of comedy and sheds new light on the influence and importance that it has on contemporary literature and culture.

Published on:
A stock illustration of people laughing
A stock illustration of people laughing

The Comic Turn in Contemporary English Fiction is written by Dr Huw Marsh from Queen Mary’s School of English and Drama. Through the book, Dr Marsh argues that in an era largely defined by a mood of crisis, contemporary fiction is as likely to treat subjects comically as it is to treat them seriously.

Re-thinking literature and comedy

The work provides a unique analysis of the role of humour and how this relates to literature. The book shows how comedy can also play a political role and even be a catalyst and a force for change.

At a time when much debate has centred on appropriateness and several long-standing television shows are being re-appraised, it also sheds light on discourses concerning free speech in comedy more generally.

The Comic Turn in Contemporary English Fiction suggests not only that much of the most interesting contemporary writing is funny and that there is a comic tendency in contemporary fiction, but also that this humour, allows writers of contemporary fiction to go further and may in turn inspire readers.

Dr Huw Marsh, Lecturer in Modernist and Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary said: “This research emerged from my observation that despite the prevalence of comedy in contemporary literature and culture, humour and the comic voice are rarely given the sustained attention that they deserve.

“My book addresses this imbalance and finds that comedy is perhaps the mode best placed to engage with the very serious crises and controversies of the present moment. It considers the political, ethical and emotional significance of humour and laughter via a series of author-focused studies, offering new ways to understand and analyse the role of comedy in contemporary fiction as well as in social and cultural life more broadly defined.”

Fresh thinking on current times

Through an analysis of the work of contemporary writers, the book offers a series of original critical and theoretical frameworks for discussing questions of literary genre, style as well as politics. It demonstrates that comedy is an often neglected mode that plays a role in much of the most interesting contemporary writing. As such it offers a new perspective on the present time.

Dr Huw Marsh added: “This work offers a new perspective on contemporary literature and culture by situating comedy, humour and laughter at the centre rather than the margins of critical thought.

“Far from being unserious, comedy is perhaps the mode best placed to engage with the crises and controversies of the present moment, developing a series of frameworks for understanding its political, emotional and ethical possibilities, as well as its limitations. We are never only joking and The Comic Turn offers new ways to think about the significance of comedy in fiction and beyond.”

More information

For media information, contact:

Paul Jordan
Faculty Communications Manager (HSS)
email: p.jordan@qmul.ac.uk