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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

When realists engage in comedy, they are hardly ever funny. Their comic efforts strike the reader as clumsy intrusions into a world that is otherwise governed by natural or societal forces. Yet the comic mode, and an aspect of the comic that could be called the comic sensibility, can be contextualized within and against realism. Liminal and transgressive, the comic sensibility solved some of the representative conundrums of realism, disrupting its smooth surfaces and thumbing its nose at determinism. The comic sensibility depended heavily on caricature—specifically, ethnic caricature—and while ethnic caricature usually denigrated its subjects, in notable cases, as in the work of Charles Chesnutt, Stephen Crane, Bruno Lessing (Rudolph Block), vaudeville comedians, and comic-strip artists, the comic sensibility provided openings for ethnic and racial minorities to make meaning, form a collective identity, and foster solidarity.

Keywords: caricature, comic, comic strip, Bruno Lessing, Stephen Crane, Charles Chesnutt, vaudeville, Jewish American, German American, ethnic humor

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