Early Titanic Jokes : A disaster for the theory of disaster jokes?



Year of publication 2018
Type Conference abstract
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description This paper seeks to challenge and revise Christie Davies’s theory of disaster jokes. Based on the discovery of several very early jokes on the Titanic disaster, all obtained from a contemporary Czech humoristic magazine, I suggest that Davies’ position that “there are no contemporary jokes” about pre-television disasters (2003: 17) is no longer tenable in view of the new data. Evidently, various forms of humor existed about current disasters even before the advent of television (and later the internet), which are otherwise considered as central to the production of sick humor and joke cycles on disaster events (cf. Ellis 2001; Kuipers 2002, 2005). While the lack of historical data makes it difficult to speculate on whether we can actually talk about “joke cycles”, the mere existence of contemporary Titanic jokes requires us to reconsider the privileged role of television, as propounded in Christie Davies’s model. Apparently, the mediatization of disaster news through early print media was quite sufficient to trigger the generation of sick humor – possibly serving as a counter-discourse to the official, mediatized narratives of negative news.
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