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Book review: Jokes and targets

Faculty Advisor




humour, humour studies

Abstract (summary)

Christie Davies’ Jokes and Targets is a collection of essays focusing on certain contemporary Western (primarily Anglo-American) joke cycles. The book involves the engaging question of “how certain cycles come about and why particular groups rather than others become the targets of these jokes." The main targets discussed by Davies include dumb and oversexed blondes, the sex-obsessed French, American lawyers, frigid Jewish women and wimpy Jewish men, various social groups stigmatized as homosexual or effeminate, and Soviet autocrats. Davies adopts a socio-historical approach, attempting to explain the raison d’être for each joke cycle—which he suggests be considered as a “social fact” in the Durkheimian sense. He draws upon an interesting variety of “outside evidence," from historical, literary, and artistic sources to relevant findings in empirical social scientific studies from numerous countries. The book provides important examples of how popular jokes, as seemingly insignificant discursive practices, can often be indicators or—as in the case of Soviet jokes—sometimes precursors of significant cultural and historical phenomena and transformations.

Publication Information

Abedinifard, Mostafa. Review of Jokes and Targets by Christie Davies, New Directions in Folklore, vol. 11, no. 1, 2013, pp 57-61.



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