Eagleton's take [on humor] is delightfully valuable. Rather than forge a path forward on what humor should do, he just ambles along the roads much more often taken and points out all the lovely foliage on either side. Humour makes no argument beyond a survey of all the ways one can debunk some portion of all preceding theories of humor. This is so wise, because there simply cannot be a unified field theory on the subject. Humor is the heart of postmodernity in this way, and yet rather than tangle himself in the thorny gobbledygook of critical theory, Eagleton sets out merely to describe ... he has put Humour together very neatly. Each sentence is short and comprehensible, and yet each sentence also seems to contain another new reference or idea. The text can be read quickly as rather funny in itself, or slowly to pick through the hidden depths that lurk behind each new example ... As a survey of all the questions pertaining to humor, Humour is a splendid introduction to the topic that ought to be used in universities everywhere. Professor Eagleton offers himself as a sturdy guide for this quick trip, neither so prude nor so erudite as to ruin our fun on the one hand, and on the other hand, neither so wild nor so cursory as to leave us quagmired in the academic jungle of postmodernity.
Terry Eagleton offers a concise and playful primer in Humour ... The book is also a sensitive appraisal of humor’s contradictory role in politics, where it can serve to level hierarchies but also to erode compassion and neutralize dissent ... Eagleton proves a witty and opinionated, if not exactly sidesplitting, tour guide. In the spirit of Alexander Pope’s 'Essay on Man,' he revels in humor’s paradoxical 'glory, jest, and riddle,' the way that laughter 'is a miming of the noise of the beasts' but also a distinctively human and social practice ... Eagleton, a Marxist, is most compelling when he historicizes humor.
There are a hundred different ways you could write a book on humour, or humor as Americans spell it. Mr. Eagleton’s approach is perfectly valid and what you would expect from a literary theorist: He contemplates the validity of various explanations of humor...and then lets his reflections run more or less free ... There are a few fine jokes in these pages ... But mostly Humour conceals what little humor it contains in a thicket of the author’s abstruse, hyper-learned musings. Mr. Eagleton no longer writes to inform and instruct. He writes—if I may beat the populist drum for a moment—to impress people who hold postgraduate degrees in the humanities. He drops the names of authors like bombs and leaves you dazed and wondering how they apply ... One is left to wonder if Mr. Eagleton’s Marxism has impaired his sense of humor.