Notes and News save the date send in your proposal(s)! American Humor Studies Association Mark Twain Circle of America

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April 2014

New Series, 23:1

Notes and News


Send in your proposal(s)!

American Humor Studies Association

Mark Twain Circle of America

Quadrennial Conference 2014

December 4-7, 2014

Four Points Sheraton French Quarter
The American Humor Studies Association, in conjunction with the Mark Twain Circle of America sends out this general call for papers on American humor. The topics below are suggestions for we think will be of interest; other ideas are welcome, and we welcome especially submissions of sessions of three papers or roundtables. The topics are broad in the hope that scholars will be able to find one that fits their current research. Submissions should be sent to Jan McIntire-Strasburg via email ( Please send your submissions by May 15, 2014.
Those sending in submissions for the Mark Twain Circle of America can email their proposals to Ann Ryan at
Possible Topics Include:

Early American Humor and its European Roots

Nineteenth Century Humor—from Southwest to Northeast to Far West

20th Century Humor and the American Novel

Regional and/or transnational humor

New Media Approaches to Humor

Humor in film, television, comics, and other visual media

Humor and Theatre

Stand-Up Comedy

Online humor

Humor and Ethnicity

Humor and Gender

Humor and Class

Humor and Sexuality

Humor and War

Contemporary Approaches to Irony, Satire, Wit, and other topics

Teaching Humor

New Directions in American Humor Studies

Our journal, Studies in American Humor, has a new publishing home through Penn State University Press. Additionally, back issues are being digitized and should be available soon online. More details about that project to come.

If you are interested in reviewing books for Studies in American Humor or if you have a book you would like us to consider for review, please contact Tracy Wuster at:


Our First Jack Rosenbalm Prize Winner

for Scholarship In American Humor
On behalf of the Selection Committee, we are pleased to announce the selection of Ina Seethaler's essay, "Big Bad Chinese Mama: How Internet Humor Subverts Stereotypes about Asian American Women," has won the inaugural prize. The essay was the unanimous choice of the committee, with special praise for its clarity, originality, and insight.

Special thanks to our judges: Bruce Michelson,

Professor of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
President, AHSA, Regina Barreca, Professor of English–University of Connecticut, and Larry Howe, Professor of English & Chair, Department of Literature and Languages–Roosevelt University

The award will be presented at the 2014 American Humor Studies Association Conference in New Orleans. 

American Literature Association 25th Annual Conference

Washington, D.C. May 22-25 2013
Session from the American Humor Studies Association
Political Humor from Nasby to Colbert

Chair: Tracy Wuster, Independent Scholar

“Petroleum Nasby, the Stephen Colbert of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” Jon Miller, The University of Akron

"Humor as a Form of Resistance: Analysis of Humor from Slavery to Scholarship," Sheila Bustillos-Reynolds, Texas Woman's University “Failing to Organize: Phyllis Diller and the Feminism of Domestic Failure,” Kathryn Kein, George Washington University

“Parody, Hoax, Attack, and Impetus: Contextualizing Contemporary News Satire,” Karleanne Matthews, University of Rochester
Graphic Humor in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical

Organized by the American Humor Studies Association and Research Society for American Periodicals

Chair: Judith Yaross Lee, Ohio University
“Approaching the Study of Graphic Art in 19th Century Periodicals: Gauging Questions of Authorship, Intent, and Reception,” Bonnie M.` Miller,UMass Boston

“Racism, Bohemianism, and the Dark Face of American Political Humor: The Case of New York's Vanity Fair, 1859-1863," Robert J. Scholnick. Coll. of William and Mary

“A Different Type of Humor: Francis Hopkinson & Typographical Play in Early American Periodicals," Kevin A. Wisniewski, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Teaching American Humor: A Roundtable

Moderator: M. Thomas Inge, Randolph-Macon College/Palacky University

"Teaching Great American Jokes," Jeffrey Melton, University of Alabama

“A Humorous (Dis)Course,” Rebecca Krefting, Skidmore College “What’s funny about African American Literature?” Kimberly Blockett, Penn State University, Brandywine

“Comic failure: Debunking the “Equal Opportunity Offender” as a Criteria of Comic Brilliance,” Lori L. Brooks, University of Michigan
Session offered by the Mark Twain Circle:

William Faulkner and Mark Twain

Organized by The William Faulkner Society and the Mark Twain Circle

Chair: Susan K. Harris, University of Kansas
“’Verbless Patriotic Nonsense’: Faulkner and Twain on War and Science Fiction,” Robert W. Rudnicki, Louisiana Tech University

“Artistic Successes at Game-Theoretic Failure: Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Faulkner’s “A Justice,” Michael Wainwright, University of London

“Speaking as Corpses: History and Authority in William Faulkner and Mark Twain,” Rachel Watson, University of Chicago
Mark Twain: Mixing and Metaphors

Chair, Ann Ryan, Le Moyne College

"Mark Twain's Autobiography: The Metaphor of Invention, Encomium, and Invective," John Bird, Professor, Winthrop University

"'The hated blood was in his veins:' Miscegenation and Rage in Twain's Which Was It?" Gretchen Martin, Associate Professor, The University of Virginia's College at Wise

"I will sell you down the river:" The River as the Site of (Im)mobility in Pudd'nhead Wilson." Sodam Choi, Graduate Student, University of Buffalo
Mark Twain: A Tramp At Home

Chair: Linda A. Morris, University of California, Davis

"Accounting for the Creoles: Sam Clemens, Mark Twain, and Franco-American Culture," Paula Harrington, Director, Farnham Writer's Center, Colby College

"The Beggar as the Site of Economic Exchange in Mark Twain," Ann Ryan, Professor, Le Moyne College

"Mark Twain's Washington Boardinghouses," John Muller, D. C. Public Library
Sessions from the Kurt Vonnegut Society

Awareness, Theology, and Identity in the Works of Kurt Vonnegut

Chair: Marc Leeds, Independent Scholar

“Our awareness is all that is alive in any of us: The Cognitive Poetics of Attention in Vonnegut’s Bluebeard,” Francis Altomare, Florida Atlantic University

“The Gospel From Outer Space: The Messianic Political Theology of Kurt Vonnegut,” Matthew Gannon and Wilson Taylor, The Vonnegut Review

“Now it can be told: Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions and Adolescent Readers,” Nicole Lowman, Southern Connecticut State University
Re-reading Slaughterhouse-5

Chair: Gregory Sumner, University of Detroit Mercy

“Trauma and tale-telling: Slaughterhouse-5 and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Nancy Romig,Howard Payne University

“Sight (Un)seen: Kurt Vonnegut’s Literary Optometry,” Joshua Privett, Bob Jones University

“Vonnegut’s Doodles: Text and Context,” Abhijeet Paul, University of California, Berkeley
Other sessions of interest:

Mark Twain’s Readers: Explorations in Reception

Organized by the Reception Study Society

Chair: Ellen Gruber Garvey, New Jersey City University

“Readers Write Back: Mark Twain’s Fan Mail and Eccentric Receptions,” James L. Machor, Kansas State University

“The Pistol and the Press: The Reception of Mark Twain, Sensational Reporter,” Jarrod Roark, University of Missouri-Kansas City

“Reading Twain’s Mysteries: From Pudd’nhead Wilson to a Double Barrelled Detective Story,” Philip Goldstein, University of Delaware-Wilmington.

The Humorous Counter-tradition of American Nature Writing

Organized by: Katherine R. Chandler, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Chair: Christine Wooley, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

“A Countertradition: Humor’s Rhetorical Roots in American Nature Writing,” Benjamin A. Click, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

“Satire in an Age of Excess: Kenneth Burke’s Environmental Rhetoric,” Brian O’Sullivan, St. Mary’s College of Maryland “‘Identifying’ a ‘Hidden’ Vein of Humor in Twentieth-Century Nature Writing,” Katherine R. Chandler, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Other Conference and Organization of Interest:

The 2014 International Society for Humor Studies Conference

will be held from July 7 to July 11, 2014 on the campus of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Registration is open and Information about this and other upcoming conferences and the ISHS can be found at

Also, Don Nilsen sends this note: On the following web site you will find Power Points related to an Honors course that Alleen and I are currently teaching at Arizona State University, as well as Power Points related to “Linguistic Humor and Language Play.”

He also sends along a link to one of the funniest sketches ever done about technological puns – from the BBC. But in the spirit of collegial humor, we pass it on to you:

Coming Soon!

All Joking Aside: American Humor and Its Discontents

by Rebecca “Beck” Krefting

Scheduled for publication by John Hopkins University Press in September 2014, this examination of stand-up comedy establishes a new genre of comedic production, “charged humor,” and charts its pathways from production to consumption. Since the institutionalization of stand-up comedy as a distinct cultural form, stand-up comics have leveraged charged humor to reveal social, political, and economic stratifications. This book offers a history of charged comedy from the mid-twentieth century to the early aughts, highlighting dozens of talented comics from Dick Gregory and Robin Tyler to Micia Mosely and Hari Kondabolu. Krefting also explores the fault lines in the modern economy of humor; why men are perceived to be funnier than women, the perplexing popularity of modern-day minstrelsy, and the way identities are packaged and sold in the marketplace.
Appealing to anyone interested in the politics of humor and generating implications for the study of any form of popular entertainment, this history reflects on why we make the choices we do and the collective power of our consumptive practices. Readers will be delighted by the broad array of comic talent spotlighted in this book and for those interested in comedy with substance, it will offer an alternative punchline.
Be sure to mention the discount code HNAF to preorder for a 30% discount.

Pocket Book Reviews

By Kalman Goldstein

Petras, Ross and Kathryn Petras.  Wretched Writing:  A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language.  New York:  Perigee.  2013.  214 pages.  ISBN 978-0-399-15924-4.  Soft Cover.  $15.00.


The Petrases, known for a series of “the stupidest…” now present this encyclopedia of a sort. This collection of selected language horrors are listed by category, alphabetically ("modifiers, misplaced", "adjectives, excessive use of", or "clichés, mangled")

so that readers searching for examples by their favorite miscreants will find the index indispensable. Each entry is also accompanied by asides either giggly or sarcastic. 

It casts a wide net over print media, but concentrates on fiction.  

There are the usual suspects, such easy targets as overripe Victorian hyperbole, pot-boiling bodice-rippers, incomprehensible 'academese', linguistic anachronisms, celebrity maunderings (Sarah Palin, Camille Paglia), and either bowdlerized or sensationally implausible erotic encounters.  Some are unfairly highlighted, like past writers (Jane Austen or D. H. Lawrence) whose sensibilities are no longer fashionable, or like Sax Rohmer, preposterous from the first.  Some examples are gleaned from hack writers who unsurprisingly churned out horribly fascinating bad literature.  But the Petrases do uncover some unexpected clunkers by contemporary giants.  "Even" Norman Mailer stumbled over "participles, dangling" in Harlot's Ghost and "penises, strange" in The Castle in the Forest.


 Some other celebrated authors have had their bad moments:  John Updike, Vladimir Nabokov, Bret Harte, and Steven King.  But Tom Clancy takes dubious pride of place in this cavalcade of wretchedness, listed in six separate categories (again, the index is indispensable). Wretched Writing is full of howlers, but the funniest may be Thomas Harris' mangled double entendre:  "Excitement leaped like a trout in the public trousers."

Stein, Ellen. That's Not Funny, That's Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream.  New York:  WE. W. Norton.  2013.  450 pages.  ISBN 978-0-393-07409-3.  Hardcover.  $27.95.


The National Lampoon has been repeatedly anthologized; special issues reprinted; and alumni memoirs penned, celebrating the magazine that "helped make America safe for satire."  Stein’s account features a distinctive balance of praise and criticism, juxtaposing her own analysis with the numerous interviews.  On the one hand, the Lampoon "reflected, defined, and enhanced iconoclastic sensibility"; on the other, it narrowly skirted and sometimes crossed the border between satire and reinforcement of grossness, misogyny, prejudice, and stereotyping. Convinced that American society was characterized by greed, malice, and stupidity, its writers assumed a detached ironic pose.  Stein contextualizes the magazine through comparisons and contrasts with the 70s Counterculture, and her book explores several aspects that the magazine company usually ignored, connecting Lampoon spin-offs on the radio and television, in the theater and motion pictures.  

Charting its genesis at Harvard, Stein finds that it was commercially oriented even then, and examines the often tense relations between writers and artists, and its publishers, even when the magazine was enormously successful.  She also reveals that as the spin-off productions became autonomous, the magazine's originators took profitable buyouts, its contributors and "culture" changed, and it became less consistently creative, appearing less frequently.  At the same time, Stain does appreciate and remind the reader of those earlier issues which combined effective satire with painstaking artistic presentation, exploring the parameters of ridicule, cruelty, anarchy, and even silliness that have enriched American satire.

Final Thought….

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

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