Balisch, Loretta Faith (1994) Scrub growth : Canadian humour to 1912, an exploration. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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This dissertation contends that Canadian humour did not emerge suddenly with the work of Thomas Chandler Haliburton and then vanish until Stephen Leacock's work appeared. The humour that Canadians created in large quantities, both before Haliburton and after, has too frequently been disregarded. -- Some of the reasons for this disregard stem from the critical tenets of Canadian critics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Others are to be found in the character of the humour itself. Nineteenth-century Canadian humour is rarely cosmopolitan; it is parochial, satiric and ironic by turns, often racy, sometimes even crude and racist. It mocks both Canada's colonial status and its literary establishment, and it depicts a country in flux rather than a unified nation. Incongruities stemming from the imposition of European literary and cultural conventions on the Canadian milieu provide material for metafictional parody. Critics generally have only recently begun to recognize the complex nature of various kinds of parody. -- This study investigates aspects of Canadian humour in selected newspapers, periodicals and books published between 1752 and 1912. It shows that from the beginning Canadians have published humour in the newspapers and that one of their concerns has been the quality of indigenous writing. The ironic narrative techniques that are still distinctive in Canadian literature make their appearance in this early humour as Canadians devise ways of writing about their own milieu while avoiding regionalism. There is clear evidence of American influence on Canadian humour throughout the period, but a distinctive Canadian humorous perspective emerges in response to Canada's colonial status in the British Empire and its position relative to the U.S. -- The nationalist nature of Canadian criticism has led to rejection of many of the works by expatriate writers, but these works share many characteristic attitudes with those of writers who remained in Canada. Their subject matter may be quite different, but their ability to present several sides to every question and their ironic perspective are similar to those of other Canadian writers. -- Obviously, not all humour is literary humour--such humour is exceptional in the literature of every country. In Canada, even today, there is more literary humour than current criticism allows. And the belief that there was no significant Canadian humour between Haliburton and Leacock continues to dominate Canadian criticism. No doubt the works of Haliburton and Leacock do occupy the summit of nineteenth-century Canadian humour; but there is a whole mountain range of lesser elevation surrounding them. -- The study concludes that there is indeed a distinctive nineteenth-century Canadian humour, most of which is expressed in the short forms dictated by publication in newspapers and magazines. Robertson Davies reminds us that -- in attempting to form an estimate of Leacock's work, we must remember that he wrote in an era when magazines were many and all but the most highbrow welcomed short, funny pieces (31). -- Leacock was writing within this well-established Canadian tradition of humour when he published Literary Lapses, Nonsense Novels and Sunshine Sketches of A Little Town. He is not the first Canadian to create humour after Haliburton, but he is the first to present it in a way that could be accepted by the Canadian literary establishment. After Leacock, humour gradually became more respectable in Canada, but that is the subject for another study.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))|
|Additional Information:||Bibliography: leaves 490-534.|
|Department(s):||Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature|
|Library of Congress Subject Heading:||Canadian wit and humor--19th century--History and criticism; Canadian literature--19th century--History and criticism|
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