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What’s a club for the unclubbable? A book or magazine. This notion underlies a strain of humor about clubs in the aftermath of Britain’s 1870 Education Act. Beneath the jokes about men gathering to hide behind their newspapers lies an earnest aspiration to create a print equivalent of a club ethos: an institution that cultivates fellow feeling. Humorists such as Jerome K. Jerome, J. M. Barrie, Israel Zangwill and G. K. Chesterton jokingly redefined the club for new classes of readers, who tended to be “unclubbable” not because of the quality of their sociability, but for reasons of class, gender, or other social factors. The imagined space of print culture created a club for these “unclubbables,” one with looser rules of affiliation. Thinking of print culture as a club sheds light on literary sociability, specifically the ways in which the simple act of reading the same book can connect us.


Arts and Humanities

Clubs for the unclubbable: Humor and literary sociability



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