Date of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

Sarah Panzer


In today’s popular memory, the First World War experience is not well-known for its humor. Yet during and after the war, soldiers produced a small but significant wave of wartime joke books and humorous war-story collections, in part to cope with their experiences in terrible, industrialized war, and also as a way to interpret, commemorate, and remember the war. These humorous interpretations and memories of the war clashed with the dominant literary reaction to the war, that of the mutilation of bodies and pointless deaths. But humor appeared in the midst of the slaughter, and today serves as an opening for understanding the World War One experience. Soldiers used humor to cope with wartime stresses, even their own impending deaths. Humor also served as an unstable mediator in tense interpersonal interactions between officers and rank-and-file soldiers, at times serving both supportive and subversive roles. One instance of the latter was how humor undermined traditional romantic and medieval tropes of ideal soldiering, altering what the ideal soldier looked like in the new age of warfare. Meanwhile, humor also demarcated the battlefront-homefront divide, showing both conflict and connection between soldiers on the front and those at home. Humor shows anew how this divide was underlined by gender, and reveals a significant trend of male anxiety on account of the changes to the gender divide brought on by the war. Finally, some soldiers pondered how humor would fit into visions of world peace after the ‘war to end all war,’ showing how the relevance of soldiers’ humor stretched far beyond the conflict.


the Great War, the First World War, humor, jokes, subversion, support, authority, ideal soldier tropes, gender, Crascredo

Subject Categories

Cultural History | European History | History | Military History | United States History


© Samuel Sakoulas Griffin

Available for download on Sunday, September 01, 2024

Open Access