Jokes and Targets
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Jokes and Targets

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Jokes and Targets takes up an appealing and entertaining topic-the social and historical origins of jokes about familiar targets such as rustics, Jewish spouses, used car salesmen, and dumb blondes. Christie Davies explains why political jokes flourished in the Soviet Union, why Europeans tell jokes about American lawyers but not about their own lawyers, and why sex jokes often refer to France rather than to other countries. One of the world's leading experts on the study of humor, Davies provides a wide-ranging and detailed study of the jokes that make up an important part of everyday conversation.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 328 pages
  • 149.86 x 228.6 x 20.32mm | 544.31g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 0253223024
  • 9780253223029
  • 685,406

Review quote

Davies (emer., Univ. of Reading, UK) is perhaps the most eminent of the sadly limited number of sociologists who have considered humor worthy of serious study. Here he focuses on cataloging and analyzing various types of jokes, ranging from 'stupid and canny' through blond and lawyer to Jewish and Soviet-era jokes. The sheer coverage of this work is most impressive; after a close reading, it becomes clear that Davies's various interpretations deserve serious consideration. For example, he maintains that people who generally regard themselves at the center of things tell 'stupid' jokes about those they consider to be at the geographical and linguistic margins--hence 'Irish' jokes in the UK or 'Newfie' jokes in Canada. Other jokes are told about 'static' groups (aristocrats, peasants, dumb blonds) in a rapidly changing world. Davies makes two contestable claims. He warns correctly against absolutist interpretations of jokes: context is everything. More arguably, he claims that jokes have no social consequences. Narrowly, this might be so, but one could argue that his disregard of 'ideological framing,' whereby soft joke 'othering' facilitates harder versions, is unjustified. Throughout, Davies maintains a lively, provocative style--refreshing in a genre that is all too commonly soulless. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers and all levels of sociology scholarship. --ChoiceC. Powell, University of Southern Maine "Davies maintains a lively, provocative style-refreshing in a genre that is all too commonly soulless... Highly recommended." -Choice "The most distinguished scholar of ethnic humor in the postwar period... has collected and organized a large body of jokes and identified and described the contradictory values or ideas they manipulate." -Paul Lewis, author of Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict "A definitive account of what is probably the most numerous and dominant kind of joke, those with a definite target. Davies' scholarship is the state of the art." -Victor Raskin, author of The Primer of Humor Research "This is a serious book, clearly written (no sociological jargon from this sociologist!), about something that makes no political difference... but that is, after all, deeply embedded in us to the extent that we are social creatures." -Chronicles "Why are stupidity, cunning, and a variety of sexual proclivities attributed in jokes to particular groups and social classes? Christie Davies reviews a broad range of jokes to formulate an answer." -Elliott Oring, author of Engaging Humor "Christie Davies has a very good claim to be the scholar to consult on the universal phenomenon of the joke, with the added bonus that he offers plenty of hilarious examples." -Journal of Contemporary Religion "I recommend Jokes and Targets as a valuable scholarly study where thoughtul analysis is brought to bear on a wide variety of significant materials and the writing style is pleasantly engaging." -Studies in American Humor "Jokes and Targets deserves a wide readership among persons interested in humour as well as comparative and cultural sociology. Davies shows that cross-national comparison can produce good theory and rigorous analysis, without losing sight of cultural specificities." -Sociology "Christie Davies' Jokes and Targets is a well-written and well-researched book." -H-France Review "Jokes and Targets, being an excellent piece of scholarship, helps to further clarify why certain targets have become conventional and what are the rules that govern target choice." -Folklore "Jokes and Targets is well worth the price of admission. It is a valuable addition to Davies's existing and esteemed corpus of humor research." -Cultural Analysis "[J]okes and Targets is an important addition to Davies' significant previous research on various categories of verbal joke... [T]his book, like Davies' previous work, contains a valuable repertoire of jokes from important contemporary joke cycles. These important and sometimes hard-to-find examples will be a rich source for other scholars." -New Directions in Folkloreshow more

About Christie Davies

Christie Davies is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Reading, UK. He was president of the International Society for Humor Studies in 2008-2009. His previous books include Ethnic Humor around the World: A Comparative Analysis (IUP, 1990); Jokes and their Relation to Society; and The Mirth of Nations.show more

Table of contents

ContentsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Why Study Jokes and Targets?1. Mind over Matter: A General Theory of Jokes about the Stupid and the Canny2. Blondes, Sex, and the French3. Jewish Women and Jewish Men4. Sex between Men: Places, Occupations, and Classes5. The Great American Lawyer Joke Cycle6. The Rise of the Soviet Joke and the Fall of the Soviet UnionConclusionReferencesIndexshow more

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