Department of English

University of Toronto

Simon Dickie wins John Ben Snow Foundation Prize

cruelty_laughter November 2012

The North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS) announced that Simon Dickie is this year's winner of the prestigious John Ben Snow Foundation Prize for Cruelty and Laughter. The Department of English is pleased to congratulate Professor Dickie on his prize!

Simon Dickie, Cruelty & Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental Eighteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).

In Cruelty & Laughter, Simon Dickie shows that a society often seen as polite and sentimental was simultaneously cruel and vicious. Looking at major novels and writers of the eighteenth century as well as a wealth of lesser-known jestbooks, satires, cartoons, and legal transcripts, Dickie has revealed a culture that ruthlessly ridiculed its poorest and least capable. All levels of society — the rich and poor, men and women — revelled in denigrating the crippled and deformed, deaf and blind, hunchbacks and dwarfs, violent attacks against women, and wife-beating, even when they sometimes combined this cruelty and laughter with compassion and sympathy. Written in lively prose and clearly and convincingly argued, this deeply engaging work of New Historicism powerfully warns historians and literary scholars not to be drawn into the myth that eighteenth century British society was in all things enlightened and courteous.

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