Date of Award

Summer 1970

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




In the history of American literature, there have been numerous authors whose popularity and critical acclaim were long in coming often delayed long past their deaths. Melville, for example, comes immediately to mind. Others have enjoyed a brief notoriety and have then slipped into oblivion for years until their "rediscovery."

One of the prime vehicles for renewed interest in ignored American authors has been the critical consideration of American humorous literature that has flowered during the 1940's, 50's and the 60's, This criticism, given impetus by Walter Blair's Native American Humor (1937)has made Seba Smith, Edgar Wilson Nye, and Finley Peter Dunne if not household words, at least familiar names to students of American literature.

James Branch Cabell, however, has been largely overlooked by students of American humor. Indeed, Cabell has been ignored by criticism in general since his brief heyday in the 1920's. Only since 1950 has he been rediscovered to the extent of three books and a few articles--a pittance for the author of more than fifty volumes!

This thesis will seek to make some amends for the long eclipse in attention by focusing its attention on the nature of Cabell's humor. After the customary review of the relevant primary sources, it will examine Cabell's work in the light of various theories of the comic, and attempt an analysis of the underlying philosophy of his work and its effect upon the peculiar quality of his humor.