Abstract

By reading antebellum-era jokes about Cuba in conversation with Judith Yaross Lee's argument that imperialism has persistently shaped American humor, this essay considers how US humorists located pleasure in the nation's fraught foreign relations. Examining a variety of comics, anecdotes, and malapropisms from Yankee Notions demonstrates how this popular, long-running magazine mocked US Americans’ efforts to assert their cosmopolitan knowledge of Cuba while nonetheless naturalizing US global power. Together, such jokes participated in a larger cultural project that shaped late nineteenth-century images of Cuba in a way that was designed to generate support for the idea of US intervention. More broadly, the magazine demonstrates how jokes about ignorance and knowingness became a way to justify US imperialism and resist foreign power.

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