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May 2020 Vol. 57 No. 9

Hong Kong University Press

The following review appeared in the May 2020 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences
History, Geography & Area Studies - Asia & Oceania

Maoist laughter, ed. by Ping Zhu, Zhuoyi Wang, and Jason McGrath. Hong Kong University Press, 2019. 224p bibl index ISBN 9789888528011, $59.00; ISBN 9789888528011 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The Mao era (1949–76) is often depicted as oppressive, traumatic, and inhumane, and thus many people would consider "Maoist laughter" an oxymoron. In the introduction to this collection, Ping (Chinese literature, Univ. of Oklahoma) points out that "the Mao era was actually a period when laughter was not only ubiquitous but also bonded with political culture to an unprecedented degree." This scholarly study of what made people laugh during the Mao era convincingly demonstrates the diversity, complexity, and dynamics of various cultural productions in Mao's China. Divided into three parts—"Utopian Laughter," "Intermedial Laughter," and "Laughter and Language"— the volume's ten essays cover, among other things, cross talk, cartoons, dance, children's literature, comedy, regional oral performance, film, and fiction. Taken together, the essays work in concert to offer groundbreaking insight into laughter and humor in the Mao era. Examining social, political, psychological, aesthetic, and linguistic models of laughter from a variety of theoretical perspectives, this volume is the first in-depth examination of an interesting subject and is a welcome addition to the literature on Maoist culture.

--G. Zhou, Louisiana State University

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.