Sexual humor in four novels by Henry Fielding

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1978

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To fully appreciate Henry Fielding's sexual humor, we need to understand eighteenth-century concepts of humor, laughter, mirth, satire, wit, raillery, passion, and good-nature. Fielding retains in his novels dramatic techniques such as burlesque and farce. As the dramatic narrator he uses irony. Wayne C. Booth provides guidelines for evaluating the nature of this irony in The Rhetoric of Irony. In eight perspectives, Fielding develops humor in his first novels. 1) sexual names, 2) sexual deception, 3) exploitation for sexual purposes, 4) unsuccessful sexual assaults, 5) attempted sexual seductions, 6) consenting adults in sexual situations, 7) unsavory characters in philosophical rationalization of their sexual actions, and 8) implicit sexual scenes. In Tom Jones, Fielding's sexual humor is more subtle but polished. He brings together the farrago of rhetorical techniques he had been perfecting in his earlier novels, and he depicts human behavior in the various perspectives he had developed as a novelist.

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