The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 7, No 4 (2019)

Reflexive humor and satire: a critical review

Massih Zekavat


Because most theories of humour emphasize its intersubjective and/or semantic nature, they fail to fully appreciate and explain self-directed humour. Through a critical exploration of the implications of different theories of humour and satire, this paper argues that the spectrum of reflexive humour and satire can be categorized according to the figure of the satirist and the target of satire, both of whom can feature individual or collective social selves. Depending on the satirist and the scope of satire, the functions of reflexive humour may range from securing psychological homeostasis to dealing with more impersonal, social and philosophical concerns.


Amanat, A. (2006). ‘Hajji Baba of Ispahan.’ Encyclopædia Iranica XI/6, pp. 561–568. Retrieved 26 December 2016 from

Ben-Amos, D. (1973). ‘The “myth” of Jewish humour’. Western Folklore 32 (2), pp. 112–13.

Billig, M. (2001). ‘Humour and hatred: The racist jokes of the Ku Klux Klan’. Discourse and Society 12 (3), pp. 267–289.

Billig, M. (2005). Laughter and Ridicule: Towards a Social Critique of Humour. London, Thousand Oaks, and New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Bing, J. & Heller, D. (2003). ‘How many lesbians does it take to screw in a light bulb?’ Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 16 (2), pp. 157–82.

Bogel, F. V. (2001). The Difference Satire Makes. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Boyd, B. (2004). ‘Laughter and literature: A play theory of humour’. Philosophy and Literature 28, pp. 1–22.

Chaudhury, S. (2014). ‘Radical carnivalisation of religion in Erasmus’s The Praise of Folly’. English Literature 1 (1), pp. 43-75.

Condren, C. (2012). ‘Satire and definition’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 25 (4), pp. 375–399.

Critchley, S. (2002). On Humour. London: Routledge.

Davies, C. (1991). ‘Exploring the thesis of the self-deprecating Jewish sense of humour’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 4 (2), pp. 189–209.

Erasmus, D. (2015). The Praise of Folly. Trans. Hoyt Hopewell Hudson. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Freud, S. (1964). Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious. Trans. James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (2010a). ‘Humour’, in Sigmund Freud, Complete Works, Ivan Smith (ed.), pp. 4539–4545.

Freud, S. (2010b). ‘On Narcissism’, in Sigmund Freud, Complete Works, Ivan Smith (ed.), pp. 2929–2954.

Hedayat, S. (1977). Taraneh-haye Khayyam [Khayyam’s songs]. Tehran: Javidan.

Hobbes, T. (1987). ‘From Human Nature’, in John Morreall (ed.), The Philosophy of Laughter and Humour, Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 19–20.

Ionesco, E. (1960). Rhinoceros and Other Plays. Trans. Derek Prouse. New York: Grove Press, Inc.

Lafrance, M. (1983). ‘Felt versus feigned funniness: Issues in coding smiling and laughing Marianne LaFrance’, in Paul E. McGhee and Jeffrey H. Goldstein (eds.), Handbook of Humour Research, vol. 1, New York: Springer, pp. 1–12.

Lefcourt, H. M. (2001). Humour: The Psychology of Living Buoyantly. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

Martin, R. A. (2007). The Psychology of Humour: An Integrative Approach. Burlington, San Diego: Elsevier Academic Press.

Martin, R. A., Puhlik-Doris, P., Larsen, G., Gray, J. & Weir, K. (2003). ‘Individual differences in uses of humour and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the Humour Styles Questionnaire’. Journal of Research in Personality 37, pp. 48–75.

Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de. (2008). Persian Letters [Lettres persanes]. Trans. Margaret Mauldon. New York: Oxford University Press.

Morreall, J. (1983). Taking Laughter Seriously. Albany: State University of New York.

Morreall, J. (2005). ‘Humour and the conduct of politics’, in Sharon Lockyer and Michael Pickering (eds.), Beyond a Joke: The Limits of Humour, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 63–78.

Oring, E. (1992). Jokes and Their Relations. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.

Ricoeur, P. (1994). Oneself as Another. Trans. Kathleen Blarney. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Swift, J. (1729). ‘A Modest Proposal.’ Dublin: S. Harding. Retrieved 28 May 2015 from

Swift, J. (2005). Gulliver’s Travels. New York: Oxford University Press.

Test, G. A. (1991). Satire: Spirit and Art. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Ungar, Sheldon. (1984). ‘Self-mockery: An alternative form of self-presentation’. Symbolic Interaction 7 (1), pp. 121–133.

Van Herck, W. (2011). ‘Humour, religion and vulnerability’, in Hans Geybels and Walter Van Herck (eds.), Humour and Religion: Challenges and Ambiguities, London: Continuum, pp. 191-203.

Veatch, T. C. (1998). ‘A theory of humour’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 11 (2), pp. 161–215.

Wyer, Jr., R. S. & Collins II, James E. (1992). ‘A theory of humour elicitation’. Psychological Review 99 (4), pp. 663–688.

Zekavat, M. & Pourgiv, F. (2015). ‘Construction of gender identities via satire: Case of Juvenal’. European Journal of Humour Research (EJHR) 3 (1), pp. 1–21. Retrieved October 27, 2018 from

Zekavat, M. (2014). ‘A discursive model of satire’. JESELL (Jena electronic studies in English language and literature), pp. 1-18. Retrieved 3 July 2015 from

Zekavat, M. (2017). Satire, Humour and the Construction of Identities. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.