Laughing Fit to Kill

Laughing Fit to Kill : Black Humour in the Fictions of Slavery

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Modern black humour represents a rich history of radical innovation stretching back to the antebellum period. Laughing Fit to Kill reveals how black writers, artists, and comedians have used humour across two centuries as a uniquely powerful response to forced migration and enslavement. Glenda Carpio traces how, through various modes of "conjuring," through gothic, grotesque and absurdist slapstick, through stinging satire, hyperbole, and burlesque, and through the strategic expression of racial stereotype itself, black humourists of all sorts have enacted "rituals of redress." In highlighting the tradition and tropes of black humourists, Carpio illuminates the reach of slavery's long arm into our contemporary popular culture. She convincingly demonstrates the ways that, for instance, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle's modes of post-Civil Rights tragicomedy are deeply indebted to that of William Wells Brown and Charles Chesnutt's 19th-century comedic conjuring. Likewise, she reveals how contemporary iconoclasts such as Ishmael Reed and Suzan-Lori Parks owe much to the intricate satiric grammar of black linguistic expression rooted in slavery. Carpio also demonstrates how Robert Colescott's 1970s paintings and Kara Walker's silhouette installations use a visual vocabulary to extend comedy in a visual register. The jokes in this tradition are bawdy, brutal, horrific and insurgent, and they have yet to be fully understood. Laughing Fit to Kill provides a new critical lexicon for understanding the jabbing punch-lines that have followed slavery's long more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 152.4 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195304705
  • 9780195304701

Review quote

shows us the resilient power of African-American traditions of humor and comedy, and the almost as resilient power of racist stereotypes and discourses * Ashraf H. A. Rushdy, American Literary History *show more

About Glenda Carpio

Glenda Carpio is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. "Laffin fit ter kill:" Black Humor in the Fiction of William Wells Brown and Charles W. Chesnutt ; 2. The Conjurer Recoils: Slavery in Richard Prio and Chappelle's Show ; 3. Conjuring the Mysteries of Slavery: Voodoo, Fetishism, and Stereotype in Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada ; 4. "A Comedy of the Grotesque" Robert Colescott, Kara Walker and the Iconography of Slavery ; 5. The Tragicomedy of Slavery in Suzan-Lori Parks' Early Plays ; Bibliographyshow more