Comedy: Children’s Literature’s Madwoman in the Attic
John Beach, Department of Human Services and Counseling, The School of Education
Abstract: Comedy, or humor, is consistently cited as children’s favorite type of story. Yet, despite its recognition by philosophers (e.g., Bergson, 1900; Freud, 1905) and literary theorists (e.g., Frye, 1957; Bakhtin, 1965), comedy is not addressed by any of the major children’s literature textbooks or references as a distinct domain of literature comparable to fantasy, realism, folklore, or picture books. Comedy seldom wins children’s literature awards, and may even be actively discouraged in schools. This study makes the case for acknowledging comedy as a major literary domain valued by children more than any other. Also, comedy is often appreciated by boys, a group who appear to be frequently ignored as a constituency by children’s literature’s community of experts. Comedy offers an important counterbalance to serious literature and has the potential to engage children in reading texts they truly appreciate, to involve children in critical thinking, to inspire children with a positive approach to life, and to include the disenfranchised in the world of literacy.