Humoring the Context, Contextualizing Humor in the Short Fiction of Lorrie Moore

Nadia Boudidah Falfoul


Talking about the revolutionary power of women's laughter, Jo Anna Isaak affirms that “the crisis of authority and value,” that is symptomatic of postmodernism, has been “instigated largely by a feminist deployment of laughter.” Since the 1980s, women’s humor discourse has become part of a rapidly growing corpus of works by contemporary writers who engage a wide variety of comic techniques in order to explore alternative forms of resistance to mechanisms of control and containment.


The argument behind this paper is to show how the American short story writer, Lorrie Moore (b-1957) uses humor as a subversive tool, a way of confronting tragedy and a vehicle to critique various psychological, social, and political issues about women’s lives. Her collections of short stories, namely Self-Help (1985), Like-Life (1990), Birds of America (1998), and The Collected Stories (2008), provide alternative ways of thinking about the humorous texts by examining their contexts—not just their contents. Analysed contextually, Moore’s “comic” stories emerge as forms of human communication whose con/textual implications are startling, engaging, and profound.



postmodern short story, women's humor, comic narrative, subversive humor, contextualized humor, female identity

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