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An Analysis of Black Humor in the Floating Opera

Author LiLi
Tutor WangXinChun
School Northeast Forestry University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Barth The Floating Opera absurdity black humor existentialism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
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John Barth is one of the most important writers in contemporary America. He attracts readers with his subtle and sensitive fictions that explore the complex interpersonal relationship and individual’s search for meaning and connection in a hostile and unpredictable world. The Floating Opera is his first novel, and is nominated for a National Book Award. Although some critics criticize that Barth’s first novel takes on too many features of traditional fiction, there are many elements of black humor embodied in the novel.This thesis analyzes the black humor in John Barth’s The Floating Opera by applying the theory of existentialism and black humor. It is composed of four chapters. Chapter One is an introduction to the writer and the novel and to the theory of humor and black humor, which will be applied to the study. It also includes a literature review of the relevant studies of the novel. Chapter Two of the thesis is devoted to the analysis of existentialism—the philosophical framework of black humor—embodied in The Floating Opera with Camus’ theory of absurdity. Chapter Three discusses the embodiment of black humor in The Floating Opera with the theory of black humor mentioned in Chapter One. In more detail Chapter Three discusses the black humor from three aspects: firstly, the incongruity of the characters; secondly, the juxtaposition of the tragedy and the comedy; thirdly, the loose structure of the novel. The first and the second parts discuss the content of black humor; while the third part discusses the form of black humor. Chapter Four comes to a conclusion that The Floating Opera is a novel that contains many factors of black humor, which exhibit the absurdity of the world, and the agony of the people living in it.

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