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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 28, Issue 2


The rhetoric of disparagement humor: An analysis of anti-semitic joking online

Simon Weaver
Published Online: 2015-04-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0024


Studies of humor informed by an understanding of rhetoric offer a number of conceptual tools for the analysis of disparagement humor. This article examines recent rhetorical approaches to humor analysis and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses. Where possible, it seeks to synthesise these approaches for what might be called an emerging methodological branch of humor studies. Although not all rhetorical analysts can be considered critical theorists, the article argues for the particular usefulness of these approaches for critical humor studies. A sample of 28 online anti-Semitic jokes is used to illustrate the various methods of rhetorical humor analysis. The discussion examines the fundamental assumptions, propositions, uniqueness and limitations of each theory. The central observation is that rhetorical humor analysis provides methods that add to disparagement theory. This central observation is supported by three points: that humor is structured with rhetorical devices that might, in various ways, convince; that the context of utterance influences the meaning of humor and thus the context of utterance is rhetorical; and, that the discursive content of humor provides the material to be reinforced.

Keywords: anti-semitic humor; disparagement humor; internet humor; rhetoric; rhetorical analysis of humor


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About the article

Simon Weaver

Simon Weaver is a Lecturer in Media and Communications in the Department of Social Sciences, Media and Communications at Brunel University London. He completed his PhD in the Department of Sociology, University of Bristol, with a thesis entitled Humour, Rhetoric and Racism: A Sociological Critique of Racist Humour (2007). Simon has published on racist humour in number of journals and in his book, The Rhetoric of Racist Humour (2011: Ashgate). Address: Department of Social Sciences, Media and Communications, College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH, UK.

Published Online: 2015-04-02

Published in Print: 2015-05-01

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 28, Issue 2, Pages 327–347, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2015-0024.

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