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Part 1: Jonathan Coe, ‘a bringer of laughter’

‘[Laughter] was something that drew people together. It was something shared’. (‘The Paradox of Satire [I]’): from laughing along to mislaughing oneself away and coming out in Jonathan Coe’s fiction

« [Laughter] was something that drew people together. It was something shared » (‘The Paradox of Satire [I]’) : rire ensemble, puis rire à côté et se révéler dans la fiction de Jonathan Coe
Laurent Mellet


Si le rire peut encore rassembler et créer des formes d’intimité et de connexion dans les romans de Coe, l’ironie narrative, par exemple, est une première façon qu’a l’auteur d’isoler son personnage et de rompre l’illusion romanesque ainsi que la « communauté qui rit ». En outre, qu’advient-il lorsque la plaisanterie tombe à plat ? que la connexion par le rire n’est jamais actualisée ? que l’on rit sans y avoir été invité ? Mon hypothèse est que c’est lorsque l’on rit ainsi « à côté » que les personnages inventés par Coe se révèlent et s’imposent, dans toutes leurs limites mais aussi leur humanité. La dimension (post)humaniste à l’œuvre chez Coe est alors d’autant plus palpable que les romans font toute leur place aux vulnérabilités intimes et individuelles. Ma conclusion est qu’il convient d’entendre ici comme une réponse aux propres doutes de Coe quant à la satire aujourd’hui. En « riant à côté », l’on reste critique et à distance, et le lecteur se voit jouer le nouveau rôle politique que Coe perçoit au cœur de la responsabilité éthique de toute fiction contemporaine.

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1Jonathan Coe wonders in his essay ‘“Comic” Novels’: ‘post-9/11, post-2008 […] is it time for novelists to jettison comedy altogether […], and finally get serious? It sounds convincing’ (Coe 2013a, 1577). Such generic opposition between comedy and seriousness, this ‘stifling of laughter’, as Coe goes on, which he addresses and qualifies in his essay, can also be a first way to question his own use of comedy in his novels. Twenty years ago, in What a Carve up!, Coe had Michael Owen write for the two of them: ‘We stand badly in need of novels, after all, which show an understanding of the ideological hijack which has taken place so recently in this country, which can see its consequences in human terms and show that the appropriate response lies not merely in sorrow and anger but in mad, incredulous laughter’ (Coe 2008b, 276). Regularly since 1994, the question has cropped up in Coe’s novels and essays, as for instance in ‘The Paradox of Satire’: ‘Of course!—laughter itself could be a weapon in the battle against injustice. If you could not cleanse the world of its deformities, you could at least laugh at them’ (Coe 2013a, 3435). The opposition between the comic and the serious shifts here into some kind of complementarity, which is also at the heart of Coe’s ‘early influences: Orwellian (the novelist as critic of society) and comic/subversive (Sterne, O’Brien, etc.). Fielding was the writer who made me feel that you could do both of these things at once’ (4358). Because they are influential, theoretical and put into practice, the functions of humour and comedy in Coe’s writing must be interrogated so as to better understand why he uses the past tense when writing in ‘The Paradox of Satire’: ‘[Laughter] was something that drew people together. It was something shared’ (3427). How and why do we move from laughing along to, perhaps, mislaughing oneself away and coming out, or asserting oneself, in Jonathan Coe’s fiction?

Satirical distance

2Coe’s books are often seen as satirical accounts of contemporary Britain, based on many examples of what foreign audiences like to call ‘the English sense of humour’. The two most obvious instances of humour in his writing are to be found in his renewal of the satirical genre and in the many jokes made by or at the expense of his characters, as the whole point might be to throw a character’s limitations or setbacks into relief, though not for mockery only. In ‘The Paradox of Satire’ Coe distinguishes between melancholy, mad, despairing and angry forms of laughter—or rather, as he writes, between ‘books which excited many different kinds of laughter’ (3435). The point in this paper is not to categorise examples taken from his own novels, but to notice that laughter and its theories are a matter of interest to him, and then that what comes first is not what makes one laugh but rather how one laughs, why, and what is thereby created. Humour creates something and is always based on some tension that will both lead to humour and cast new light on a character.

3Or conversely, laughter is the consequence, the effect created by, for instance, errors and mistakes. This is recurrent with Coe. Characters keep stepping out, coming out already, and revealing their frailty when making mistakes or erring in error—‘Brio’ becoming ‘biro’ in What a Carve up!, and then in The House of Sleep Sarah’s mistake when she merely dreams she renumbers the footnotes in Terry’s paper after deleting footnote number three (Coe 2008c, 266). What results is an article full of gaps and hilarious slanderous footnotes. We may also remember from The Rotters’ Club Ben’s mistake regarding the Chief Master’s wife’s twitch and plastic hand (Coe 2008d, 281); from The Closed Circle, Ben’s confusion between ‘blow dry’ and ‘blow job’, or Paul’s between the Birmingham Post and the Washington Post, between drug and loose powder (Coe 2008e, 71). In Expo 58, Thomas’s leniency towards his wife smoking while she is pregnant (‘It was a stressful time for a woman, after all, and smoking did help her to relax’ [Coe 2013b, 238]) partakes of the same use of sincere and telling mistakes.

4Confusions, mistakes or errors create laughter and are part of characterisation. It is this part which this paper purports to investigate, beyond the hesitation between mockery and empathy. My contention is that Coe’s contemporary specificity as regards humour and comedy has much more to do with such humanist or post-humanist tenor than with the satirical vein he is always associated with. The political or cultural satire that Coe practices leads to forms of humour based on distance and irony (Mellet 31), which constitute the bulk of some novels—not all of them—as well as the main focus of many commentators and critics. Yet there is room for another sort of humour and laughter. Still in ‘“Comic” Novels’, Coe draws a line between comedy and satire, and writes about his allegiance to a non-satirical form of comedy: ‘But satire and comedy are two quite different beasts—although many people insist on using the terms interchangeably—and no amount of rationalism or essay-writing can undermine my allegiance to comedy’ (Coe 2013a, 1586). Might these distinction and allegiance be construed as a rejection of ironic distance in favour of empathy, attentiveness, or connection?

Humour, melancholy and sharing

5In his collection of articles Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements Coe regularly addresses the association of humour and melancholy. Once put into practice in his own writing this combination is the first evidence that his comedy may be more human than satirical. Coe writes that as a young aspiring writer: ‘[his] sensibility was being pulled in two different directions—towards humour, and towards melancholy—and [he] wanted to find a way of writing that would reconcile these two opposite approaches’ (1679). He then explains how much he owes to David Nobbs’s The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin for showing him that such a reconciliation was possible and, we may add, quintessentially British. As we read in Expo 58: ‘All that science, and technology, and culture, and history, and it’s the good old British sense of humour that sees us through in the end’ (Coe 2013b, 208). This cohesive British humour, together with his attempt at ‘reconciling humour and melancholy’ (Coe 2013a, 4311), are two striking elements in Coe’s narratives. In Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements he claims that this reconciliation ‘has something to do with what makes my books “so English”’ (4317). In this 2011 interview he also quotes a sentence from his introduction to David Nobbs’s novel and implies that another reconciliation is hard to achieve, that between humour and melancholy on the one hand, and on the other, ‘offering “a portrait of society as a whole, but filtered through the individual consciousness”’. Yet here again may lie his personal approach to humour and contemporary fiction, in another cohabitation of extremes and cooperation of forms (Mellet 140). When Coe mentions Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium and his theoretical contribution on lightness, he quotes his ‘special connection between melancholy and humour’ and the way Calvino distinguishes between humour and comedy: ‘As melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness, so humour is comedy that has lost its bodily weight  […]. It casts doubt on the self, on the world, and on the whole network of relationships that are at stake’ (Coe 2013a, 1121). Can we find traces of such lighter and possibly more human humour and of this network of relationships in Coe’s comic novels?

6Coe remembers from his childhood television: ‘[Laughter] was something that drew people together. It was something shared. It forged bonds of sympathy between people, among friends and among families. From that very early age, I wanted to be someone who created laughter, who was able to generate this incredible magnetic force that brought people together in this way’ (3427). The memory has led to a poignant scene in The Rotters’ Club in which Ben experiences a new sense of community in front of The Morecambe and Wise Show on Christmas night: ‘everywhere else, all of them laughing, all of them laughing at the same joke, and he felt an incredible sense of… oneness […] a sense that the entire nation was being briefly, fugitively drawn together in the divine act of laughter’ (Coe 2008d, 274). This passage is so dense and illuminating to Ben that the narrative almost runs mad (and we remember the ‘mad, incredulous laughter’ in What a Carve up!), with extremely long, endless sentences perhaps performing this sense of oneness. Ben then formulates the same project as Coe himself as he reconsiders his artistic ambitions: ‘to be a bringer of laughter was in fact the holiest, most sacred of callings’ (see also Coe 2013a, 3798). Such connection through laughter is also what Coe insists on at the beginning of his article ‘“Comic” Novels’: ‘I know these scenes [from The House of Sleep] are comic because I’ve read them aloud to audiences, and the audiences have laughed. It’s always nice, that—when something you’ve written connects strongly with people’ (Coe 2013a, 1472) This is exactly what the hero of The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim regularly experiences with bitterness when feeling excluded from the intimate and indeed quite often laughing community forged by the Chinese woman and her daughter: ‘They looked so happy in each other’s company. There was such a connection between them. They weren’t talking very much  […]. It was all in their eyes, their smiles, the way they kept laughing, the way they kept leaning in to each other’ (Coe 2010, 6); ‘after those couple of seconds she looked away and she and her daughter would start talking and laughing again, quickly rebuilding that wall of intimacy, that protective screen’ (8).

Breaking the laughing community?

7In this novel the narrator sometimes brings to the fore misunderstanding and a form of dissensus in conversations (158). The same can be found in The House of Sleep when Coe humorously stresses the limits of a given character in his inability to understand questions or cultural references (Coe 2008c, 193). What might be construed here is a first breach in the laughing community. It is now the failure of the community to be a community precisely, with no sense of oneness, that becomes comic and creates laughter. Laughter proceeds from some narrative distance that also aims at isolating the characters—we are here reminded of one of the structures of satire, though here the point is not to satirise anyone but rather to create distance and spark laughter so as to narratively support the protagonist and provide empathy. Such a move is central to Coe’s first novel The Accidental Woman. Maria constantly chooses withdrawal and aloofness: ‘to withdraw, unimpressed, from the society of her school friends, her former playmates’ (Coe 2008a, 2). She is ‘the withdrawing type’ (51). The omnipresent, though not quite omniscient, narrator of the novel immediately contributes to this, throwing light on Maria’s ridicule. About her and Ronny he writes on page 4: ‘So that’s two clowns we have met already’, though once more the reference to humour is here quite complex, as the point is not for these two clowns to make us laugh. Similarly, the narrator’s mildly mocking tone all through the book does not only aim at having us smile or laugh at her: ‘Arriving home, Maria shouted hello to her mother, at work in the kitchen, for she was not averse to showing affection occasionally’ (Coe 2008a, 7); ‘Sympathy, understanding, affection, trust, liking and love are all words completely inappropriate to describe the feelings felt by Maria for her brother, and vice versa’ (7). What happens here is a sort of shift from the laughing community, neither with Maria nor at her, but rather about her, for her perhaps. Once more, the point is not to mock her but do our best, narrator and readers together—here is the community—to understand her. This is how may be read the numerous addresses to readers for help: ‘This is that it was essential, for Maria, that the encounter should seem to be unplanned. Explain that if you can’ (75). In The House of Sleep we meet another Maria, or perhaps she is one and only Maria, who faints whenever she laughs too much. Here too the laughing community differs but survives, with another emphasis on connection: ‘[Terry] was able to look at Maria and to sympathise with her—to feel real sympathy, after all this time, with another human being—watching her face […]  thinking what it must be like to crave laughter, to crave it more than anything else and yet always to deny yourself, knowing that it was the instrument of your destruction’ (Coe 2008c, 246). Craving laughter, and yet enjoying connection and sympathy—here is a first example of the evolution in Coe’s work from ‘laughing along’ to more complex patterns.

Mislaughing: laughing when one should not

8Another example can be found in the many scenes when the joke falls flat and the laughing bond never gets to be actualised. We might think for instance of The Closed Circle and Paul’s disastrous performance on a television comedy programme. However hard one tries, one cannot ‘just  […] develop a sense of humour’, though this is here Malvina’s advice. Paul admits here: ‘I don’t really do jokes […] I mean, what other people find funny… I can never quite see it’ (Coe 2008e, 68). The failure is therefore double and complete—a failure to find a joke funny and the inability to deliver any. His lame cockney ‘I should coco!’ on the issue of Cadbury chocolate is, when rehearsed, ‘rewarded simply with incredulous silence’ (71)—once more, from ‘mad, incredulous laughter’ in What a Carve up! to ‘incredulous silence’ here. As a result of his performance on the set, the decision is taken to ‘edit around [him]’ (Coe 2008e, 73)—the character withdraws just as Maria did. With this example once again what the absence of laughter signals is the frailty of the character. Much more than with Maria in The Accidental Woman, the community of readers here does laugh at him, precisely because he fails at being funny. Humour then and its absence are no longer used as a mere means to spark off laughter or not, but are dealt with in more complex narrative ways. It may be displaced, inverted, made use of, or compensated for—but never really ‘denied’, as we read about Maria in The House of Sleep.

9In the first pages of this novel Dr Dudden blames Dr Madison for resorting to jokes and laughter when dealing with narcolepsy (Coe 2008c, 30). In Jonathan Coe’s fiction readers may also be laughing when they are not supposed to. The laughing bond is here actualised though it never was potential beforehand. The previous examples taken from The Closed Circle also illustrate this form of mislaughing: no one laughs at Paul’s jokes but we do because no one does. This narrative trick associating awkwardness with humour, tragedy with comedy, but perhaps as a form of lighter comedy, in Calvino’s terms, allows the character to come out and show his frailty in a much more effective way than if his jokes had created ‘mad, incredulous laughter’. Mislaughing may therefore run counter to the community and Coe’s epiphanic ‘sense of oneness’: whether we laugh at a character or force ourselves to laugh, whether the joke falls flat or sparks off mad laughter, the community is constantly questioned and put to the test in Coe’s narratives—as if the whole point of humour was precisely to interrogate the limits of connection and oneness, of interaction and the collective. Mislaughing also points at the way we might laugh at something different from humour itself—laughing at mistakes, failures and frailty. Not exactly ‘laughing along’, what readers do here might be equated to setting up another form of community: not laughing against, but mislaughing the character away or, for the character, mislaughing oneself away, and bridging up new connections so as to come out as more singular.

Mislaughing, coming out and reconnecting

10Besides, humour is so frequently metatextual with Coe, interrogating as it does the limitations of language, that we must now wonder about the logic informing humour, writing strategies and the humanism behind. There is not only the biro in What a Carve up! and the footnotes in The House of Sleep that we might think of. Let us mention Expo 58 and Coe’s playful enjoyment of homophony and paronomasia, for instance in this purple patch of Wayne’s and Radford’s poetic frenzies:

“Mr Chersky had the sachet”.
“He had the sachet and the packet”.
“He had the sachet and the packet in his pocket”.
“He had the sachet and the packet in the pocket of his jacket”. (Coe 2013b, 244)

11The barmaid’s name, Shirley Knott, is also mixed up with the phrase ‘surely not’ a couple of times. In this novel Thomas’s ‘shenanigans’ (249) and misdemeanours are therefore complemented by linguistic and idiomatic tricks and mistakes. Equally self-reflexive is Coe’s writing when the point is to underline the failures of humour, mislaughing or the modalities of the self-assertion lurking behind. This is why humour is not just at the heart of Coe’s satirical project, but also the gist of his more ethical approach to connection and individuation. In The Closed Circle Ben discovers during his French retreat the ambiguities of communal laughter:

Benjamin found himself faced with a row of contented monks […]. Their eyes were locked into the middle distance […], and for once he felt an intense, incongruous bond with them. It made him want to laugh, but in a joyous way, with no hint of mockery. There seemed a good deal of laughter to be had at the Abbaye, despite the warnings against it which were inscribed in the rulebook of Saint […]: ‘54: Ne pas dire de paroles vaines ou qui ne portent qu’à rire. 55: Ne pas aimer le rire trop fréquent ou trop bruyant. (Coe 2008e, 392)

12Now, what about this incongruous bond which makes one want to laugh but not only, not too often, and not too raucously?

13To Ben in The Closed Circle this is once more akin to some connecting epiphany. What exemplifies this double direction in Coe’s writing is according to me the recurrence of out-of-body experiences, when one comes out of one’s own body and has a revelatory perspective on oneself. How not mention here the humour plus, indeed, melancholy, or rather the humour which turns into melancholy in the cinematic out-of-body dream that Michael Owen experiences at the end of the first part of What a Carve up!, itself an echo of some of his more recurring, haunting dreams? ‘I had a strange dream in which the hospital became a film set and I was sitting in the darkened auditorium of a cinema, watching myself on the screen as I held Fiona’s hand and spoke to her’ (Coe 2008b, 413). The same pattern can be found in The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim when, even before the tragic final twist, Sim’s life and narrative hover between humour and melancholy: ‘I sometimes had the feeling that I was standing outside my own body, looking down on it, […] as though I was looking down on the High Street from above, and watching myself walking along it with all the other shoppers, like extras in a perfectly composed shot from a film’ (Coe 2010, 220)—the film shot once more, and above all the out-of-body experience that disconnects the hero from within and from himself. It may be in these precise moments that the reader has to reconnect humour with melancholy, or more simply to reconnect to the character, in all their ambivalences. The distance thereby provided may be of the same type as the one at the heart of mislaughing moments and experiences. Let us quote once again from Coe’s essay ‘“Comic” Novels’, when he links this out-of-body experience with the absence of humour as the German interviewer asks him why he actually doesn’t write funny novels: ‘[I] was having a sort of out-of-body experience. I suddenly saw myself, as if from a detached, ironic height, as a fictional character: as a character, that is, in a comic novel’ (Coe 2013a, 1480). The associations become even clearer: comedy and characterisation, out-of-body epiphanies and distance, distance versus the laughing community. And yet it is in this melancholy laughing suspension, in this distance in mislaughing, that Coe’s protagonists come out and assert themselves, show their own limitations and reveal their human and humane qualities and frailties.

The politics of mislaughing: coming out, doubting, and acting

14That the reader should similarly mislaugh may not signal any misinterpretation or mean that the comedy fails. Rather, this is when the humanist drive in Coe’s writing comes to the fore, when the emphasis is first on the individual’s vulnerable intimate hurdles. This is also what we find in the first pages of ‘“Comic” Novels’, where Coe resorts to humour and distance, as we saw, to have us smile or laugh not at but for, with the misunderstood comic novelist whose books do not make this journalist laugh: ‘But I’m not connecting well with this interviewer. It’s all going very badly, full of hesitant silences and dead airtime’ (1473). Still in Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements, Coe elaborates on the reasons why readers might have equally misunderstood The Rotters’ Club, with a new confusion between ‘an element of laughing at the provinciality of Birmingham’ (3394) and a reception more often based on nostalgia for the 70s. In his article on Expo 58 and the comedy of forgiveness, Jean-Michel Ganteau demonstrates that this novel is ‘a comic novel that is not so comic, a satire that is not quite a satire, and a comedy that is full of gravitas’ (Ganteau 20). My contention here closely connects to some of his conclusions: ‘Expo 58 thus performs an emotional and ethical inversion by promoting a move from traditional satire to grave comedy […]. [It] pumps up the democratic element of comedy, always concerned with the “inferior” and the ordinary, certainly no supermen but fallible individuals briefly thrown into visibility’ (Ganteau 23). This new function of humour, which reveals frailty, certainly is as political as satire, but in different guises, so as to meet Coe’s new expectations of the novel form: ‘My view nowadays is that an understanding of the workings of human nature is what has to come first: after all, all social structures arise out of, and are dependent upon, the interplay of individual human consciousnesses’ (Coe 2013a, 4317).

15Eventually this can be read as a response to Coe’s own doubts regarding satire today, his ‘growing disillusionment with the role played by laughter in the national political discourse’ (1586), expressions of which abound in Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements: ‘Britain’s much-vaunted tradition of political satire [is] itself an obstruction to real social change, since it divert[s] everyone’s contrarian impulses into harmless laughter’ (1586). About What a Carve up! he explains ‘[his] faith in laughter as a force for change’, but illustrates this idea of the failure of satire: ‘everybody who disliked the book disliked it because they did not agree with its politics. Everybody who did like the book liked it because they already agreed with everything that it said. In other words, my attempt to use laughter as an agent for change had failed completely’ (3444). And so the first part of ‘The Paradox of Satire’ concludes with:

When we write satire, therefore, we may try to believe that we are doing something that will disrupt the established order: we may try to believe that when they read our words, our political (and personal) enemies will shake in their boots, retreat into a corner to re-examine their own system of values, and emerge as reformed characters; but, in reality, this will never happen. Satire does not work that way. Instead, it brings about the very opposite of what the author was intending. It creates a space—a warm, safe, welcoming space—in which like-minded readers can gather together and share in comfortable laughter […]. An impulse which might have translated into action is therefore rendered neutral and harmless. (3452)

16This stance clearly connects to what his collection of essays opens and concludes on, namely the importance of doubt to Coe’s writing. More effective than satire and its impediments, the distance at the heart of out-of-body moments, human comedy but also mislaughing experiences may allow readers but also enemies, then, not to laugh only, not too often, and not too raucously (to remember The Closed Circle and Saint Benoît), but on the contrary to delay or even doubt laughter so that empathy, but also action, reaction, reflection, might be possible, and so that new singular individuals might come out. Mislaughing becomes a guarantee to remain critical and at a distance, endowing the reader with the new political role that Coe thinks is at the heart of the ethical responsibility of contemporary fiction. Distance can therefore lead to new connections, once again more effective than with satire, and political in quite a new way indeed. We read in Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements: ‘All storytelling is political, being an attempt to control and influence the imaginative life of another person for a period of time’ (Coe 2013a, 2629). And yet it is not such a control that Coe’s essays and novels posit as the author’s political role. Rather what prevails is the democratic experience of alternative lives: ‘What the twenty-first-century novel can provide for its readers is the chance to immerse themselves in an alternative vision of life which is personal, focused and measured; the reading of which, over a number of hours and a number of days, will provide an imaginative continuity which few other experiences, or indeed art forms, can afford us nowadays’ (4751). Here lies the politics to Coe: ‘If I do my job properly then I will be helping my readers to exercise their own imaginations and therefore to think more freely, and that in itself is a political act’; ‘The reader is expected to become a social critic, a theorist on the role of the novel, a moral arbiter […]. It invites us to become engaged, thinking human beings’ (2849).

17However ‘universal and absolute’ ‘the need for laughter’, as Jonathan Coe writes on Jacques Tati (1376), it is not just Coe’s ‘attitude towards humour [which] has changed’ (4392). From one novel to the next, the roles, modalities and poetics of humour have taken multiple facets, though systematically opening up onto a new humanist and political agenda. ‘[F]orm follows function’ (3406), Coe wrote on B.S. Johnson (even while quoting B. S. Johnson). With humour too, it does, as the specific political function of Coe’s comedy may have led to imagining original bouts of mislaughter. At the end of The Closed Circle, Harding ‘had this theory that in order to satirise something, or in order to parody it properly, you really had to be in love with it, on some level’ (Coe 2008e, 375). Even though we learn that Harding then ‘“renounced” humour’ when confronted in his turn with Saint Benoît and the fact that ‘laughter wasn’t holy, wasn’t dignified’, what we have here is satire with love, reminding us of humour with melancholy (Mellet 155), as well as, perhaps, laughing or mislaughing with the new politics of narrative singularity and democracy today—mislaughing oneself away, coming out, but always to reconnect.

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Calvino, Italo, Six Memos for the Next Millenium (1988), trans. Patrick Creagh, London: Penguin, 2009.

Coe, Jonathan, The Accidental Woman (1987), London: Penguin, 2008a.

Coe, Jonathan, What a Carve up! (1994), London: Penguin, 2008b.

Coe, Jonathan, The House of Sleep (1997), London: Penguin, 2008c.

Coe, Jonathan, The Rotters’ Club (2001), London: Penguin, 2008d.

Coe, Jonathan, The Closed Circle (2004), London: Penguin, 2008e.

Coe, Jonathan, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, London: Penguin, 2010.

Coe, Jonathan, Marginal Notes, Doubtful Statements. Non-Fiction. 1990–2013, London: Penguin. ebrary, 2013a. 08/08/2015.

Coe, Jonathan, Expo 58, London: Penguin, 2013b.

Ganteau, Jean-Michel, ‘Innocent Abroad: Jonathan Coe’s Expo 58 and the Comedy of Forgiveness’, Focus on the Comic Turn in Contemporary British Fiction, ed. Barbara Puschmann-Nalenz, Anglistik 27.1 (March 2016): 19–29.

Mellet, Laurent, Jonathan Coe. Les politiques de l’intime, Paris: PU Paris Sorbonne, 2015.

Nobbs, David, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1975), London: Mandarin, 1990.

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Laurent Mellet, « ‘[Laughter] was something that drew people together. It was something shared’. (‘The Paradox of Satire [I]’): from laughing along to mislaughing oneself away and coming out in Jonathan Coe’s fiction  »Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 51 | 2016, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2016, consulté le 21 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Laurent Mellet

Laurent Mellet is Professor of British literature and film at the Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, CAS EA 801. His research fields are 20th-and 21st-century British literature, interactions between political ideologies and literary aesthetics, film theory and adaptation. He is the head of ARTLab (Atelier de Recherche Toulousain sur la Littérature et les Arts Britanniques) in the CAS research team (EA 801), in which he is the co-director of the new research programme ‘Constructing the individual and the collective’. He is the co-author with Shannon Wells-Lassagne of Étudier l’adaptation filmique-Cinéma anglais, cinéma américain (PUR, 2010), the co-editor with Sophie Aymes of In and Out: Eccentricity in Britain (CSP, 2012), and the author of L’Œil et la voix dans les romans de E. M. Forster et leur adaptation cinématographique (PULM, 2012). He has written several papers on modernist and contemporary literature, and on film theory and aesthetics. His monograph on Jonathan Coe was published by the PUPS in 2015 (Jonathan Coe. Les politiques de l’intime).

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