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Literature & Criticism / American Studies / Cultural Studies


Essays on American Humor
Blair Through the Ages
Walter Blair

Selected and Edited by Hamlin Hill

Walter Blair was the literary scholar who almost single-handedly gave the study of American humor significance in the academic world. By categorizing the writings of American literary humorists into such diverse styles as the Old Southwest, Local Color, and Literary Comedian humor — each having serious social import—Blair abolished the notion that they were all practicing the same kind of intellectual irreverence. Moving through more than six decades of Walter Blair's works, Essays on American Humor: Blair Through the Ages provides a comprehensive introduction to the discipline he developed.

Hamlin Hill has selected and ordered this collection to show the scope of Blair's expertise, which encompasses the careers of tall-tale characters like Baron Munchausen as well as the achievements of such real-life humorists as E. B. White. The pieces range in time from Blair’s introduction to the 1928 edition of Julia A. Moore's poetry to his 1989 introduction to a work commemorating Davy Crockett's two-hundredth anniversary. Historical and biographical essays, source-and-influence studies, and analyses of texts constitute the bulk of the book. An entire section is devoted to discourses on Mark Twain, Blair's major subject.

"While many of us are familiar with the importance of the tall tale, this collection helps to place that form of storytelling within a wider context and allows us to see the relationships among a variety of practitioners.... It is a valuable reminder of the sense of history and cohesion within American culture that grows out of the very process of storytelling." — Michael J. Kiskis, editor of Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography

Walter Blair
(1900-1992) was professor of English at the University of Chicago. He pioneered the study of American humor over the course of more than sixty years of scholarly publishing. Among his notable works are Native American Humor, Tall-Tale America, and Horse-Sense in American Humor. He received the Jay B. Hubbell Award from the American Literature Section of MLA, the Charlie Chaplin Award from the American Humor Studies Association, and the first Distinguished Mark Twain Scholar award from the Mark Twain Circle. Hamlin Hill is Distinguished Professor of English at Texas A&M University. He is the editor of Mark Twain's Letters to His Publishers and the author of Mark Twain and Elisha Bliss, Mark Twain: God's Fool and America's Humor from Poor Richard to Doonesbury, the last of which he wrote together with Walter Blair.


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A line snakes across the page with various images of different American figures walking along it

February 1993

LC: 92-035534 PS
306 pp. 6 x 9

The 1993 cloth edition of this book is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

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Paper $14.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-13624-6
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