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Comedy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 20 Dec 2012
by Matthew Bevis (Author)

To consider comedy in its many incarnations is to raise diverse but related questions: what, for instance, is humour, and how may it be used (or abused)? When do we laugh, and why? What is it that writers and speakers enjoy – and risk – when they tell a joke, indulge in bathos, talk nonsense, or encourage irony?

This Very Short Introduction explores comedy both as a literary genre, and as a range of non-literary phenomena, experiences and events. Matthew Bevis studies the classics of comic drama, prose fiction and poetry, alongside forms of pantomime, comic opera, silent cinema, popular music, Broadway shows, music-hall, stand-up and circus acts, rom-coms, sketch shows, sit-coms, caricatures, and cartoons.

Taking in scenes from Aristophanes to The Office, from the Roman Saturnalia to Groundhog Day, Bevis also considers comic theory from Aristotle to Freud and beyond, tracing how comic achievements have resisted as well as confirmed theory across the ages.

This book takes comedy seriously without taking it solemnly, and offers an engaging study of the comic spirit which lies at the heart of our shared social and cultural life.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Product details
Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: OUP Oxford (20 Dec. 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0199601712
ISBN-13: 978-0199601714
Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.3 x 11.2 cm
Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Insightful, witty and impressively wide-ranging throughout (Times Literary Supplement)

Bevis shows there’s no iron rule that a book on comedy can’t be entertaining (Independent i)

About the Author
Matthew Bevis is a Fellow in English at Keble College, University of Oxford. His publications include Lives of Victorian Literary Figures: Tennyson (Pickering & Chatto, 2003), Some Versions of Empson, ed. (OUP, 2007), and The Art of Eloquence: Byron, Dickens, Tennyson, Joyce (OUP, 2007). He was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for his research in 2007.

Thoroughly enjoyable and informative introduction to Comedy
By Hywel James VINE VOICE on 30 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Matthew Bevis’ “Very Short Introduction to Comedy” is hugely enjoyable and offers a sophisticated (and at times properly demanding) account of the development of the subject from the time of the Ancient Greeks up to more-or-less the present day. I say it’s demanding but that should not put anyone off reading this wonderful guide. As plenty of people have said, comedy is a serious matter – if it is to be done well – and Matthew Bevis makes this absolutely clear by providing a thorough account of the history of the subject in its many different forms. Having said that, the book is full of great jokes which exemplify or illustrate the points he makes about how Comedy has evolved through history.

Bevis’ analyses of “Withnail and I”, “Groundhog Day”, and episodes of “The Simpsons” alone make the book a real winner, but there is much more to enjoy. In particular I welcomed being introduced to comedy I didn’t know about.

Shortly after finishing the book I re-read parts of it and I’ve come to view that it isn’t just good – it’s an excellent exploration of its subject: comprehensive yet concise, thoughtful, full of shrewd insights and above all very funny. Highly recommended.


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