The Fear of Laughter in Restoration Prose Fiction
This article draws on recent studies on the fear of derisive laughter (or ‘gelotophobia’) in order to relate them to early modern comments on laughter and to the representation of that anxiety in some texts of Restoration prose fiction, and with a particular emphasis on Alexander Oldys’s The Fair Extravagant(1682). Gelotophobia is a variant of shame anxiety and a social phobia defined as the pathological fear of being an object of laughter. Although the fear shown in the texts analysed is not pathological, it certainly reveals the strong pressure of the shame culture and gender politics prevailing in Restoration England.
Keywords: Restoration prose fiction • Social shame • Gelotophobia • Alexander Oldys • Theory of laughter