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Machine-Age Comedy by Michael North


Machine-Age Comedy by Michael North

In this latest addition to Oxford's Modernist Literature & Culture series, renowned modernist scholar Michael North poses fundamental questions about the relationship between modernity and comic form in film, animation, the visual arts, and literature. Machine-Age Comedy vividly constructs a cultural history that spans the entire twentieth century, showing how changes wrought by industrialization have forever altered the comic mode. With keen analyses, North examines the work of a wide range of artists - including Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett, and David Foster Wallace - to show the creative and unconventional ways the routinization of industrial society has been explored in a broad array of cultural forms. Throughout, North argues that modern writers and artists found something inherently comic in new experiences of repetition associated with, enforced by, and made inevitable by the machine age. Ultimately, this rich, tightly focused study offers a new lens for understanding the devlopment of comedic structures during periods of massive social, political, and cultural change to reveal how the original promise of modern life can be extracted from its practical disappointment.


Michael North is one of our most original and insightful interpreters of modernist culture. 'Analyses of humor are not usually very funny,
the reader is warned at the outset, but North

's readings and interpretations succeed in being consistently vivid, surprising and illuminating. * Laura Marcus, University of Edinburgh * Machine-Age Comedy makes a strong, original historical argument about the cultural ramifications of modern technologies; it intervenes sharply and persuasively in the field of humor theory; and it offers, by way of support for its historical and theoretical arguments, a series of dazzling, witty, and clear-headed readings of modernist films and novels. It's a terrific book. * James English, University of Pennsylvania *'

About the Author

Michael North is Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of The Dialect of Modernism, Reading 1922, and Camera Works, winner of the Modernist Studies Association Book Award in 2006.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th April 2009


Michael North

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Oxford University Press


232 pages


Popular culture
Film theory & criticism
Literary studies: from c 1900 -
History of art & design styles: from c 1900 -



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