The Empire Laughs Back: Toward a Theory of Postcolonial Comedy in the Literature of the Caribbean and South Asian Diaspora Open Access

Schwenz, Caroline Lee (2017)

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The Empire Laughs Back: Toward a Theory of Postcolonial Comedy in the Literatures of the Caribbean and South Asian Diaspora

The role of comedy in postcolonial literature is a topic that has only begun to be explored extensively among scholars. By introducing new themes and key terms into the debate, this dissertation works toward broadening discussions that bring together postcolonial theory and literature with comic theory and philosophy. My dissertation makes use of primarily Caribbean and South Asian diasporic literature, although the themes and terms I articulate have broader significance to the field of postcolonial studies as a whole.This project uses a wide range of comic and postcolonial thinkers such as comic theorists like Mikhail Bakhtin, Brian Boyd, and Robert Provine, and postcolonial scholars Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Edouard Glissant. However, the aim here is to generate a provisional "postcolonial comic theory" that other scholars might engage with to better deepen ongoing conversations. The thrust of my argument comes from my consideration of how authors make use of comedy, humor and laughter in order to imagine new or utopic spaces, what I call "comic spaces of non-reality," that "play with" and rearticulate approaches to identity politics, national and international traumas, and the use of language. In particular, this dissertation is interested in the ways that these comic spaces of non-reality manifest in the physical space of the laughing body, the gestural or linguistic space of wordplay, and the spiritual space of satire. These comic spaces of non-reality redraw the boundaries of identity, community, and knowledge in ways that sophisticatedly engage anti-colonial or anti-globalization thought.

Table of Contents


What's laughter got to do with it?: A Case for a Postcolonial Theory of Comedy


Chapter 1

The Laugh in Slaughter: Figures of Laughter in Postcolonial Texts


Chapter 2

Comic gestures, comic language?: A Study of Language and Logic in G.V. Desani's All About H. Hatterr and Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh


Chapter 3

Keep Smiling Through Like You Always Do: Satire and Spiritual Utopias in Anthony Winkler's The Duppy and Maryse Condé's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem



A Look at What Comic Spaces of Non-Reality Can Say to the Question of Gender


Works Cited


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