Young Jesters and Old Fools: Jesting and Male Youth Masculinity in Seventeenth-Century England

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Misty Harville (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Edward Behrend-Martinez

Abstract: During the seventeenth century, compilations of short, witty jokes emerged as a popular form of entertainment among male youth in England. These collections, known as jest-books, contained jests that mocked the social tensions that young men faced in regards to their masculine identity. Excluded from the patriarchal masculine ideal through marriage, young men bonded with one another by laughing cathartically at the anxious state of married manhood. Utilizing this unique source, this thesis examines the tensions that male youth addressed through jesting. Examining the comical navigation of tensions between different masculine identities provides a complex picture of ways in which male youth contested patriarchy, subjugated women, and maintained their own culture in a changing political and social climate. Drawing on theories about humor, masculinity, and youth identity, this thesis argues that unmarried men developed an exclusive male youth masculine identity over the seventeenth century that challenged and excluded the dominant married masculine ideal, and that jesting was an integral component in both forming and maintaining that identity.

Additional Information

Harville, M. (2013). Young Jesters and Old Fools: Jesting and Male Youth Masculinity in Seventeenth-Century England. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2013
Male youth, Jesting, Masculinity, Seventeenth-century England, Jest-books

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