The Super Fun Kids' Graphic Novel Sale

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    Original Essays | September 21, 2015

    Annie Jacobsen: IMG Mirrors on the Moon: A Reporter's Story about Sources and Secrets in the Modern World

    As a national security reporter, I write about war, weapons, security, and secrets. The question most commonly asked of me is, "How do you get... Continue »
    1. $21.00 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

Qualifying orders ship free.
New Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
available for shipping or prepaid pickup only
Available for In-store Pickup
in 7 to 12 days
Qty Store Section
3 Remote Warehouse Humor- Comedy Business and Criticism

American Humor: A Study of the National Character (New York Review Books Classics)


American Humor: A Study of the National Character (New York Review Books Classics) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Stepping out of the darkness, the American emerges upon the stage of history as a new character, as puzzling to himself as to others. American Humor, Constance Rourke's pioneering "study of the national character," singles out the archetypal figures of the Yankee peddler, the backwoodsman, and the blackface minstrel to illuminate the fundamental role of popular culture in fashioning a distinctive American sensibility. A memorable performance in its own right, American Humor crackles with the jibes and jokes of generations while presenting a striking picture of a vagabond nation in perpetual self-pursuit. Davy Crockett and Henry James, Jim Crow and Emily Dickinson rub shoulders in a work that inspired such later critics as Pauline Kael and Lester Bangs and which still has much to say about the America of Bob Dylan and Thomas Pynchon, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Book News Annotation:

It was in 1931 that historian, anthropologist, and critic Rourke (1885-1941) published what would become her most popular work and a classic ever since. It is a kind of manifesto about what America was, where it would be found, and what it was made of, says Greil Marcus (Lipstick Traces) in his introduction to the new edition.
Annotation 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


Rourke's pioneering "study of the national character" examines such legendary figures as the Yankee, the backwoodsman, the minstrel singer, and the stroller to show how the popular comic imagination has contributed to America's changing self-awareness.

About the Author

Constance Rourke (1885-1941) was a historian, anthropologist, and critic who revolutionized the study of American culture. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at Vassar and the Sorbonne, she spent most of her life in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her influential studies of American life include Trumpets of Jubilee (1927), Troupers of the Gold Coast (1928), and biographies of Davy Crockett (1928), Audubon (1936), and Charles Sheeler: Artist in the American Tradition (1938). Her most famous work remains American Humor: A Study of the National Character, recognized as a classic from its publication in 1931. Rourke devoted her later life to “living research,” exploring regional culture, from Shaker furniture to African-American song, and Western folk tales. She died in 1941, after falling on an icy porch.

Series Description

The NYRB Classics series is designedly and determinedly exploratory and eclectic, a mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.

Inevitably literature in translation constitutes a major part of the NYRB Classics series, simply because so much great literature has been left untranslated into English, or translated poorly, or deserves to be translated again, much as any outstanding book asks to be read again.

The series started in 1999 with the publication of Richard Hughes's A High Wind in Jamaica. NYRB Classics includes new translations of canonical figures such as Euripides, Dante, Balzac, and Chekhov; fiction by modern and contemporary masters such as Vasily Grossman, Mavis Gallant, Daphne du Maurier, Stefan Zweig, and Upamanyu Chatterjee; tales of crime and punishment by George Simenon and Kenneth Fearing; masterpieces of narrative history and literary criticism, poetry, travel writing, biography, cookbooks, and memoirs from such writers as Norman Mailer, Lionel Trilling, and Patrick Leigh Fermor; and unclassifiable classics on the order of J. R. Ackerley's My Dog Tulip and Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy. Fall 2009 sees the publication of the series' first graphic novel, Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati, translated into English for the first time.

Published in handsome uniform trade paperback editions, almost all the 250 NYRB Classics included in this collection feature an introduction by an outstanding writer, scholar, or critic of our day. Taken as a whole, NYRB Classics may be considered a series of books of unrivaled variety and quality for discerning and adventurous readers.

Product Details

Rourke, Constance
New York Review of Books
Introduction by:
Marcus, Greil
Marcus, Greil
Marcus, Greil
New York
American wit and humor
American - General
United States - 20th Century
History - United States/20th Century
American literature
National characteristics, american
National characteristics, American, in literature.
National characteristics, American, in litera
United States - General
General Fiction
Humor-Comedy Business and Criticism
Edition Description:
Trade paper
New York Review Books Classics
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.98x5.10x.60 in. .61 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. The Bog People: Iron-Age Man...
    New Trade Paper $19.95
  2. Where the Stress Falls: Essays... Used Trade Paper $7.95
  3. The Portable Nietzsche (Viking... Used Trade Paper $6.95
  4. The German Way Used Trade Paper $7.95
  5. Country and the City (73 Edition) Used Trade Paper $15.50
  6. Art and Places, #1: Venice Observed Used Trade Paper $11.00

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » Comedy Business and Criticism
History and Social Science » Americana » General
History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » US History » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

American Humor: A Study of the National Character (New York Review Books Classics) New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.25 In Stock
Product details 258 pages New York Review of Books - English 9781590170793 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Rourke's pioneering "study of the national character" examines such legendary figures as the Yankee, the backwoodsman, the minstrel singer, and the stroller to show how the popular comic imagination has contributed to America's changing self-awareness.
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at