Stephen Leacock: Humour and Humanity

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 1988 - Comic, The, in literature - 197 pages
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Stephen Leacock is often regarded as a writer without an imaginative centre, as an author who lacked a vision of sufficient power and clarity to sustain a lifetime of serious writing. Leacock's writings emerge, however, from a centre that is the confluence of the two traditions of humanism and Toryism. Without an understanding of Leacock's Tory-humanism, which he provides most fully in The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice (1920) and Our Heritage of Liberty (1942), even his theory of humour will seem curiously limp in its insistence on the need for "kindliness" in humorous literature. Moreover, Leacock's Tory-humanism and theory of humour--the theory which he presents in Humour, Its Theory and Technique (1935) and Humour And Humanity (1937)--are crucial to a full understanding of his two most accomplished works of fiction, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) and Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914). Sunshine Sketches portrays the Tory-humanist's qualified ideal Canadian community of Mariposa in opposition to the individualism and materialism of Josh Smith. In opposition to the failure of Mariposa's Anglican Church, the Sketches offers the redemptive romance of Peter Pupkin and Zena Pepperleigh. The concluding sketch, "L'Envoi. The Train to Mariposa," considers Mariposa in retrospect from the Mausoleum Club and suggests the need for a continual revival of the values of community life. "L'Envoi" also points forward to Arcadian Adventures, the book which centres on another Mausoleum Club in a city of the United States and focuses on the plutocratic machinations of a league of capitalists who eventually realize a municipal government of the plutocracy. Considered together, the Sketches and the Adventures reveal what was for Leacock a real difference between the United States and Canada: the ascent to dominance in the former of liberal individualism (Plutoria) and the presence for imaginative retrieval in the latter of an interdependent community (Mariposa).

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An Introduction
Mariposa Versus
Religion and Romance in Mariposa
The City of
Humour and Humanity

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About the author (1988)

Alan Davies is a member of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Toronto.

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