Humorous literature: what it is, how it developed, its characteristics and works


What is humorous literature?

Humorous literature, also known as humorous literature, refers to a type of text in which the author consciously creates comic effects within his work and, at the same time, expresses his position before it. It is important to highlight the intentional function, given that in many cases it is possible to find works in which the authors fall into comedy without realizing it and that does not include humorous literature.

Throughout history, humor and literature have had a close and almost millenary relationship that has undergone several transformations and processes with the passage of time, based on main factors such as its social, political, religious, intentions, functionality, etc., which have endowed it with great alterations.

What is humorous literature

On the other hand, it is necessary to consider that humor in literature possesses a subjective component, given that comicality may vary in readers. In this sense, according to the reader, humorous literature may or may not have the effect the reader is aiming at.

How did humor literature develop?

To talk about humorous literature, it is necessary to situate ourselves in the emergence of humor or humorous attitude after the creation of the most important literary genres and classical creations. Thus, the humorous attitude we are talking about arises as a creative reaction to everything that was considered official in the literary field.

Under this scenario, however, Homer is credited with the use of parodies within the epics and later we will see humorous tints in Greek comedy by the hand of exponents such as Menander and Aristophanes. Towards the Middle Ages, humor becomes a courtly space that through elements such as satire is used as an instrument with the purpose of advocating an educational and moral intention within the sermons, which is why they will be used later in fables.

In this way, in works such as Giovanni Bocaccio’s Decameron, the humor that will continue to develop in the Renaissance begins to take shape, where at this time it is exempt from the moralizing intention and achieves greater independence, becoming a bourgeois value that exposes the enjoyment of life, as observed in the work Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabeleais.

Types of humor in humor literature

Now, it is time to know the categories in which humor literature develops and how each of them works. It is important to remember that throughout literature, in its various genres and manifestations, authors have incorporated one or another of the elements we will see, thus enriching not only their own creations, but also their genre. These are:


This is one of the main categories and certainly one of the most used in which the game with meanings and connotations of what is being said, unfolds both in the literal and figurative sense. In this way, a certain event is explained by the context that is not expressed directly. Irony requires the reader’s intelligence and shrewdness in order to be identified.


This category is very close to irony and is distinguished mainly by the use of humor oriented to the criticism of social customs. In this sense, when the author uses satire, it is necessary to incorporate a moral stance that, in its development, allows him to express part of his thought.


One of the most important parodies of universal literature is Don Quixote, the main representative work of this category. When we speak of parody or the existence of parody, we refer to the humorous imitation of a forced statement, often based on conventions within a given context.


And in this last category, this element allows to increase the scathing aspect in a way that it can even mock the targets with a higher tone but keeping the subtlety. Sarcasm also appeals to the reader’s intelligence so that he/she can read what is meant or the message between the lines that is suggested.

Main characteristics of humorous literature

Main characteristics of humorous literature

Below we will see a series of key characteristics that we must consider when evaluating this type of texts and that are frequent in them. Thus, we find the following features:

Moralizing use

One of the main purposes for which humorous literature or humorous literature was used, especially during the Middle Ages, had to do with the moralizing function. In this case, the use of this dye in literature was oriented so that the reader could easily identify what was most convenient taking into account religion and its dictates.

Humorous intent

Although many texts may include humorous dyes in their works, many times this happens without the author himself having consciously encouraged it. That is why when we speak of humorous literature, we speak of a type of text in which the author has the will and intention to provoke humor and thus laughter in his work.

Search for the funny effect

Many authors and experts agree that humorous literature is one of the most complex types of literature for writers, given that, in addition, laughter is usually a highly subjective element, so that not all readers may find the same events or situations funny. However, in the process of this type of work, authors aim for the humorous effect on the reader.

Variety of resources

In this search for humorous effect, and as we saw with the types or categories of humor, the variety of resources for humorous literature usually enriches the situations suitable for humor. The author makes use of these to begin to construct it in such a way that the reader himself can imagine the situation or simply read something at the end that makes all the above absurd.

Among these resources we find ridicule, equivocation, the obvious, the absurd, wordplay, double meaning, repetition, surprise, metaphor with a humorous sense, paradox, out of context, use of stereotyped characters, complicity, strangeness, pronunciation of words, games with sound, among others.

Ease of comprehension

Although we know that humor does not awaken in all readers in the same way or is found in the same events, a particularity of humorous literature has to do with the ease with which the humor of the situations can be understood. In this way, the effect of laughter in the reader is guaranteed in a greater proportion.

Works of humorous literature

In this field it is possible to classify great works that throughout the universal history of literature have had an important echo, such as The Decameron, Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais, The Lazarillo of Torm with picturesque dyes, Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, which also contains this element, comedies by Lope de Vega, fables by Félix María Samaniego, El sombrero de tres picos by Pedro Antonio e Alarcón, Juanita la Larga by Juan Valera, La regenta by Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), El amigo Manso, La de Bringas and El caballero encantado by Benito Pérez Galdós, among others.

As for the most representative authors, we find the following: The Count of Villamediana, Juan Rana, William Shakespeare, Lope de Rueda, Tirso de Molina, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Moliére, Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Francisco de Quevedo, Eduardo Mendoza, Diego de Torres y Villarroel, Eugenio Gerardo Lobo, Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Julio Cortázar, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Jorge Amado, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, José Francisco de Isla, Leandro Fernández de Moratín, Lawrence Sterne, among others who have made the list throughout the history of literature.

To learn more about other types of literature, works, genres, movements and more, remember that in our section dedicated to this type of art you can find a lot of information that will allow you to continue discovering more of this artistic expression that has given so many contributions to humanity.