This is a candid academic treatment of offensive and sick humor by the leading folklorist scholar on the topic of jokes and joke cycles. It features insightful, surprising, controversial and thought-provoking analyses of the jokes that have been told for years, throughout various cultures. Now in a 30th Anniversary Edition with new foreword.
“No piece of folklore continues to be transmitted unless it means something—even if neither the speaker nor the audience can articulate what that meaning might be. In fact, it usually is essential that the joke’s meaning not be crystal clear. If people knew what they were communicating when they told jokes, the jokes would cease to be effective as socially sanctioned outlets for expressing taboo ideas and subjects.”
— Alan Dundes, in the preface to Cracking Jokes
Where there is anxiety, there will be jokes to express that anxiety. Jokes are legitimate folklore—like myths, proverbs, legends, superstitions and songs—and as such, they reflect what is on people’s minds. There has been no shortage of jokes or anxiety since the 1960s, and in this book, Dundes reminds us of the jokes we have been telling, and reveals the anxiety these jokes reflect.
His interpretations are not always popular. His investigation into antisemitic jokes in Germany in the 1980s, for example, met with widespread criticism. But it is a part of society that makes a difference and should not be shielded from academic scrutiny. Dundes likens his critics to those who attack the messenger when they do not like the news. All kinds of jokes exist. He reports on what exists and applies the best methods of investigative journalism to uncover the motive and true meaning behind thejokes.
As Marc Galanter writes in the new foreword, “A preeminent scholar of jokes, Dundes was an adventurous and prolific pioneer of the study of many realms of folklore. A tireless champion of the field, he was a major force in shifting the study of folklore from its rural and antiquarian tilt to encompass the prolific lore of modern life. … He regarded jokes not only as subject matter to be analyzed and understood in their own right, but as useful tools to uncover social and cultural patterns.” This book in particular is the culmination of these important yet understudied cultural devices. Dundes was “a deeply dedicated scholar who maintained a radiant faith that by understanding our susceptibility to the irrational we might empower ourselves to move beyond prejudice and act rationally and humanely.”
The book, with the new foreword, is republished by Quid Pro Books, and is finally available in digital formats as well as a new paperback.
Ebook edition available in all leading formats:
Amazon for Kindle.
Barnes & Noble for Nook.
Apple iTunes and iBooks (previewed online).
CATALOGING: Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles & Stereotypes, by Alan Dundes
ISBN: 9781610273602 (pbk.)
ISBN: 9781610273626 (ePUB)
ASIN: B01MR8L19P (Kindle)
Page count: 186 pp.
Publication date: Jan. 26, 2017
List price (ebook): US $9.99; UK 7.99 Pounds; Euro 8.99
List price (pbk): $29.99