ABSTRACT

This article invites a closer look at the misleading use of the term “humorist” to describe Mark Twain, as well as any other number of authors who write comic material, and to suggest the pernicious effects of that practice. The near ubiquitous use of “humorist” in critical commentary masks or at least obscures the satiric elements in laughable texts, repressing the darker shades of those texts. Light-hearted or amiable laughter has become the sign of the humorist. In a regime that assumes “humorist” as the umbrella term, what happens to the assaults of (ridiculing) laughter that are a hallmark of satirists? Two sets of examples are offered: contemporary reviews of the works of Mark Twain published at the beginning of the twentieth century and remarks taken from recent critical commentary about comic writing. This article also offers a brief description of what its author believes constitutes the core of satire.

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