Untamed and Unabashed

Essays on Women and Comedy in Literature

By Gina Barreca

Barreca examines the use of humor in the works of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark, and Fay Weldon. She analyzes the ways that each writer uses comedic devices, especially those involving language itself, and discusses the gendered basis of their humor, providing a provocative feminist perspective on gender and comedy.

Each of the essays argues that conservative critics have misread and misunderstood the importance of humor in the works of these women authors, and that women’s humor serves to explode conventions oppressive to women and to offer women readers a critique of, and an alternative perspective on, the dominant cultural ideologies that contain and oppress them. The book concludes that these authors strategically deployed humor, coded in forms that women readers—but not men readers—would recognize and understand, as a means of educating and empowering those women readers.

Barreca asserts that much of women’s comic play has to do with power and its systematic misappropriation, allowing women to gain perspective by ridiculing the implicit insanities of a patriarchal culture. Using detailed persuasive new readings of various works of each of her chosen authors, she shows how the straight jacket of conventional femininity is challenged, confronted, and finally, thrown off.

Untamed and Unabashed

Publication Information

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Wayne State University Press (February 1, 1994)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0814321364
ISBN-13: 978-0814321362
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces