Humour, Laughter and Everyday Life in the Early Modern Period

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Date / time: 8 July, 9:30 am - 6:00 pm

Armstrong Building 1.04

Humour, Laughter and Everyday Life in the Early Modern Period


A one-day, in-person workshop on humour, laughter, society, gender and politics. Free registration. Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Theme Overview

Humour and laughter are both reflective of daily life and performed as social practice within it. On the one hand, jokes and other humorous genres are based upon shared cultural norms, values and anxieties that shape group identities and individual responses to daily experience. Humour can subvert expectations, invert ‘common sense’, and reveal implicit values to the historian or literary scholar. Mirth and embodied laughter, on the other hand, are practiced in social settings, causing or smoothing over divisions in company, creating in-groups or out-groups, and providing all manner of functions from the medical to the disciplinary. This workshop is set up to look at the various contexts in which humour functioned as part of daily life over a long chronology. How did changes and continuities in gender, status, race, politics, materiality, and media interact with one another and shape the uses of mirth, satire, raillery, and other forms of humour?


9:30-9:45 – Welcome!

9:45-10:40 – Keynote paper: Kate Davison, title tbc

10:40-11:35 – Musical Humour
Katherine Butler – ‘Musical Humour in Rounds and Catches c.1580-1650’
Angela McShane – ‘Rhetorical Humour in Political Ballads’

11:35-11:45 – Break

11:45-12:30 – Polemical Laughter
Adam Morton – ‘Antipopery and laughter’
Mark Knights – ‘Visual Satire and Corruption in the long eighteenth century’

12:30-13:30 – Lunch Break

13:30-14:25 – Literary Laughter
Evgeniia Ganberg –  ‘The bouncing’st Jade in Troy: searching for equality in early modern burlesques and mock-poems on the Trojan War
Ruby Hutchings – ‘Blake’s Laughing Songs’

14:25-15:20 – Masculinity and Humour
Tim Somers –  ‘Masculinity and Jesting Culture’
Tim Reinke-Williams – ‘Xenophobia and Meanings of Manhood in Later Seventeenth-Century English Jest-books’

15:20-15:30 – Break

15:30- 16:45 – Melancholy and Death
Clara Manco – ‘Witty Alarums for the Melancholy Spirits’: Laughter as a cure for melancholy in the Early Modern Period
Aleksandra Buhl Thostrup – ‘Jesting with Death’
Imogen Knox – ‘Laughing at and joking about suicide and self-harm in early modern England’

16:45-17:00 – Break

17:00-18:00 – Keynote paper: Tim Harris – ‘Re-thinking Humour and Politics in Later Stuart Britain’

18:30 – Dinner at the Zucchini Pasta Bar, 55 Degrees North. (A block-booking with the attendees of Eighteenth-Century Political Participation and Electoral Culture, being held at NCL 7-9 July.)


Please register using the link below and, if you have any questions, get in touch at

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