College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in English (MA)


Matthew Towles

Primary Subject Area

Literature, American; Literature, General; Women's Studies; Psychology, General


Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, humor, Marilynne Robinson, redemption


English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America | Psychology


Humor is the topic of many psychological, social, and cultural studies, but this project examines humor under a new lens. Humor's unique qualities explored in this study prove that humor is capable of more than just causing laughter; the nature of humor allows it to unveil truths about humanity, both spiritual and physical, through exposing man's flaws. This quality is especially important to consider when analyzing humor in the context of literature, in which humor also works as an aesthetic element. This study searches several short stories by Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor along with Marilynne Robinson's Gilead to reveal that each author implements in her works the element of humor in her own style, making humor an integral component in her fiction. Considering the unique qualities of humor and recognizing humor as an aesthetic element in the selected works show that these authors use humor as more than a mere literary element; their uses of humor, though they vary in form, work to convey significant themes of redemption throughout their stories. The term redemption defined in this thesis refers to a new and truthful perspective that humor creates for the characters, audience, or both. Since this new perspective ultimately points to spiritual truths about man's nature, this discovery lends more credit to humor than other scholars have previously offered.