Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Border-crossing Laughter: Humor in the Short Fiction of Mark Twain, Mikhail Naimy, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emile Habiby

This comparative literature project traces humor strategies in the short fiction of two American writers: Mark Twain (1835-1910) and Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), and two Arab writers: Mikhail Naimy (1889-1988) and Emile Habiby (1922-1996). The humor in the selected stories transcends the limitations of time, literary traditions, and culturally-grounded notions of what is funny. I examine key elements of humor that are structural and translatable. The four writers use comparable humor strategies such as incongruities, multiple or third person deadpan narrators, humorous repetition, reciprocal interference, metanarrative disruptions and diffuse disjunctions. Humor in these literary texts is not only about the presence of lighthearted jokes; serious texts that deal with incongruities causing laughter are also humorous. The reader's reactions to these stories vary from laughter to a placid smile or laughter through tears. These physical reactions to humor are one criterion for humor in the stories, and their variety challenges the reader's notion of the funny. This inductive close reading of the stories is supported by mini-theories drawn from humor and translation studies to better understand the stories. The first chapter introduces the comparative and humor grounds of this dissertation and the choice of writers. In the second chapter, I reread five short stories from the canon of Mark Twain and discuss the humor strategies that he shares with the other three writers as well as the unique humor methods that Twain uses and that are relevant to the discussion of the stories. In the third chapter, I uncover the humor in four short stories written by Lebanese writer Mikhail Naimy, and in discussing the humor strategies I also focus on questions of translatability in humor. The fourth chapter focuses on three humorous stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Taking into consideration Poe's horror writing, I argue that his humor strategies transcend limits of time and culture. In the fifth chapter, I study four stories by the Palestinian writer, Emile Habiby from his last tale drawing on comparable and unique humor strategies. The final chapter focuses on the broader implications and recommendations for this new approach to a comparative humor study.