"Strange and unfunny Jokes": Folly and satire in the works of James Joyce and Nathanael West
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This thesis explores the role of humor in transnational modernism, specifically in the work of James Joyce and Nathanael West. There is a palpable gap in modernist criticism that fails to fully consider the meaning of humor and linguistic play in literature of the period. Through an examination of Joyce's Ulysses and West's Day of the Locust and Miss Lonelyhearts , I analyze the meaning of modernist humor and how it figures in these authors' works. Using Freud's theories on humor and the criticism of Robert Bell, I explore the "Telemachus" chapter of Ulysses , demonstrating the importance of folly and linguistic play to an understanding of the text as a whole. I reestablish the significance of humor to this chapter by validating Buck Mulligan's comedic worldview. I relate Buck's foolery to the satire of Miss Lonelyhearts' Shrike, paralleling their comedic and nihilistic dispositions, and argue that their roles are pivotal and reflect the essential nature of comedy to modernism. I then demonstrate West's Day of the Locust as furthering his comic project through its use of vaudeville and slapstick comedy. Using the work of Justus Nieland, I show the ways slapstick permeates West's text, and through the theories of Deleuze, I explore the relationship of humor to masochism.