Performing rebelliousness: Dutch political humor in the 1780s

  • 1 Department of Dutch Language and Culture, Groningen, Netherlands
Ivo Nieuwenhuis
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  • Department of Dutch Language and Culture, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
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Abstract

This article takes the notion of rebelliousness as the starting point for an analysis of eighteenth-century Dutch political humor. In several recent publications from humor scholars, the rebellious image of political humor in today’s world is questioned. This skepticism towards the idea of humor as a form of rebellion is connected to four sources of political humor that were published as part of the conflict between the reformist Patriots and the conservative Orangists, that took place in the Dutch Republic during the 1780s. It is shown that, comparable to the situation in contemporary political humor, the rebellious outlook of these sources is to a large extent a matter of rhetoric and convention. Their crossing of social and cultural boundaries and their attacks on the powers that be are part of a long cultural tradition, of which the actual social impact is doubtful. Also, the humor used in these sources contains obvious disciplinary tendencies, that emasculate their rebellious potential in yet another way. The new insights regarding political humor of the past that are thus produced prove the scholarly relevance of connecting theoretical perspectives based on the study of contemporary humor to historical cases of humor.

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