NATION, SOCIAL CLASS AND STYLE: A COMPARISON OF THE HUMOUR OF BRITAIN AND AMERICA
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Historically a much greater range of styles of literary humour were to be found in Britain than in the United States because Britain was a much more hierarchical society with a divided elite and an aristocratic as well as a bourgeois aesthetic. In America there was a single dominant class, that of independent farmers and the businessmen and professional people of medium sized cities whose optimistic, egalitarian, moralistic, culture restricted the range of styles an aspiring American humorous writer could use. This restrictiveness remained long after American had become the world's leading, richest and most technologically advanced economy. British humour alone was able to use styles that valued detachment from conventional morality and also took inequality for granted and hence devised forms of aggressive mockery that could be directed downwards. British humour was also able to employ a greater reach of allusiveness, vocabulary and sophistication than was possible in America. It was the rise of Jewish humour in America from a new initially immigrant population that valued things of the intellect for their own sake and which had also mastered the arts of detachment that enabled American literary humour to achieve a comparable degree of variety and sophistication to that of Britain in the course of the twentieth century.
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