‘Making literature ridiculous’: Jerome K. Jerome and the new humour

Oulton, C. (2017) ‘Making literature ridiculous’: Jerome K. Jerome and the new humour. Dickens Studies Annual: Essays on Victorian Fiction, 48. pp. 273-284. ISSN 0084-9812.


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The New Humour of the 1890s was often depicted as a mania or disease attacking unreflecting or susceptible readers. However like the figure of the New Woman (which it often attacked), New Humour both incurred and resisted simplistic definitions.

As the most successful of the New Humourists Jerome K. Jerome was uniquely placed to exploit the ambivalent status of fin de siècle comic fiction. His weekly journalTo-day adroitly responds to press attacks, notably through provocative suggestions that he and his contributors are writing in the tradition of Dickens. Inviting readers to see themselves as loyal members of a club, Jerome surely had Household Words in mind when he said of To-day, ‘there can be few journals that have established so close and intimate a relationship with their readers.’

In Jerome’s account it is not the quality of modern fiction, but the snobbery of the critics themselves that is ‘making literature ridiculous’. Nonetheless his writing from these years shows him asking serious questions about the relationship of a writer to his published work, while conflicted feelings about his own literary status haunt his fin de siècle writing.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR0161 By period
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR3991 19th century (1770-1900)
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR0931 Wit and humor
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Prof Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2016 14:32
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2019 16:15
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/14736

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00