- Gender and Humor: Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives ed. by Delia Chiaro and Raffaella Baccolini
The anthology Gender and Humor: Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives, edited by Delia Chiaro and Raffaella Baccolini, features eighteen scholarly essays with an introduction and conclusion by Chiaro and Baccolini. This book is part of the Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies Series, which features a number of anthologies across many subjects and disciplines.
Chiaro and Baccolini are professors at the University of Bologna, Italy, and each has an impressive array of publications on the subjects of gender and humor. Here, they have gathered an equally impressive collection of writing at the intersection of these academic fields. These works of scholarship focus [End Page 145] on a variety of subjects from film and television, such as Little Miss Sunshine (Dayton & Ferris, 2006) and The Catherine Tate Show (BBC, 2004–2009) to stand-up comedians such as Judy Tenuta, to sketch comedy culture in Japan. The "interdisciplinary" in Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives derives from the diversity of analysis and scholarly perspectives produced by the contributing authors. They use both qualitative and quantitative analysis, and apply theories from the fields of gender and sexuality studies; feminist and queer theory; linguistics, race and ethnicity studies; humor studies; anthropology; and more. What is noteworthy about this collection as a whole, apart from its addressing more recent topical material and building upon more current theoretical work, is that it does not rely solely on a humor studies canon, nor the gender studies canon, in approaching these subjects. Chiaro and Baccolini do outline a few key premises in the introduction, titled "Humor: A Many Gendered Thing," but clearly they seek to broaden the discussions of humor and gender beyond simply their natural academic habitats.
The key concepts forming the foundational basis with which to read the essays are often located in gender and sexuality studies, including Judith Butler's work and the commonly accepted premise that gender and sexuality are nonbinary, performed cultural constructs. Chiaro and Baccolini also prevail upon the work of transnational scholarship, citing Donna Haraway's concept of "situated knowledges": "the notion that whenever we receive or produce culture we do so from a particular, partial position" (1). Chiaro and Baccolini reasonably conclude that the ways in which we create and receive humor are thus gendered in the same way that ethnicity, race, sexuality, age, and so on will color the ways in which humor resonates within each of us. It does strike me as odd that they do not also briefly address the canon of humor studies scholarship, expressly those works that explore the gendered performances of comedy, such as Regina Barreca's They Used to Call Me Snow White—But I Drifted (1991) or Phillip Auslander's article "Brought to You by Fem-Rage" (1993). Omitting these references, however, makes clear that this anthology's collection is not intended to be foundational reading but rather to be considered as a body of work pointing us in a new direction for where study of gender and humor may proceed next.
The anthology is divided into three untitled sections. The first section offers either comprehensive theories of gender and humor or theories of gender and humor that address a particular genre comprehensively, such as [End Page 146] women's roles in farcical works for the theater, speculative fiction, or British comic films. The second part of this anthology focuses on the psychological aspects of gender and humor with essays that explore how gendered differences in humor might reveal themselves within everyday conversation. This particular group of essays utilizes an unsurprising amount of conversational analysis in their construction, and I would propose that this section of the anthology presents an academic treasure trove for students and professors of psychology and anthropology alike. Last, the third section looks closely at both visual humor and the merging of gendered and ethnic identities within the construction of humor.
This anthology is exciting in that it bridges disciplines, national perspective, and genre in what is already...