AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 7, Number 1. February  2023                           Pp.233-242

On the Aesthetics of Humor in Contemporary Egyptian Fiction

Department of English, Faculty of Human and Social Sciences
University of Tunis, Tunisia
Faculty of Sciences and Arts of Sajer,
University of Shaqra, Saudi Arabia


Although literature and humor are two distinct areas, they complete each other. Indeed, this paper aims to examine the use of humor as a tool of resistance and subversion in contemporary Middle Eastern fiction in Egyptian novelist Hamdi Abu Golayyel’s al-Fāʿil (2008) and Luṣūṣ mutaqāʿidūn (2002). In particular, this paper strives to re-evaluate the main elements of humor such as satire, puns and quibbles. It highlights their use on thematic, stylistic and meta-narrative levels to better accentuate the experience of the characters and the re-emergence of all that has been repressed. Having adopted a structuralist approach to elucidate the intersection of humorous and subversive characteristics in the personality of abject characters, the textual analysis looks at the narratives’ strategies and the constructions of the protagonists. This study also examines how humor interacts with the stories’ main narrative threads and how it is generated by the textual structure, the characters and the deliberate use of Bedouin accent. More importantly, this study identifies the psychological and social functions of Egyptian humor asserting the need for adopting cross-cultural poetics when dealing with humor.

Cite as:

Mzoughi, I. (2023). On the Aesthetics of Humor in Contemporary Egyptian Fiction.  Arab World English Journal for
Translation & Literary Studies 7
(1): 233-242.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awejtls/vol7no1.18


Abu Golayyel, Ḥ. (2002) Luṣuṣ mutaqaʿidun. Cairo: Dar Mirit.

Abu Golayyel, Ḥ. (2011).  al-Fa’il. Beirut and London: Dar al-saqi.

Abu Golayyel, Ḥ. (2015).   A Dog with No Tail. Trans. Robin Moger. Cairo and New York: AUC Press.

Aṣfūr, J. (1999). Zaman al-riwāya. Damascus: Dār li-l-thaqāfa wa-l-nashr.

Badawī, M. (2008). ‘Riwāyat “al-Fāʿil” li-l-miṣrī Ḥamdī Abū Julayyil. Sard mutaqaṭṭiʿ yatabādalu al-maraḥ maʿa al-ʿ
ālam’. Al-Ḥayāt. https://goo.gl/rcGQKm

Dozio, C. (2021). Laugh like an Egyptian: Humor in the Contemporary Egyptian Novel. De Gruyter.

El-Ariss, T. (2013).  Trials of Arab Modernity. Literary Affects and the New Political. New York: Fordham University Press.

Farber, J. (2007). Toward a Theoretical Framework for the Study of Humor in Literature and the Other Arts.
The Journal of Aesthetic Education. 41(4). 67-86.

Freud, S. (2003). The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious. New York: Penguin.

Martin, R. (2007). The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach. Burlington, MA:

Elsevier Academic Press.

Nilsen, A, & Nilsen, D. (2008). ‘Literature and Humor’. In The Primer of Humor Research, ed.
Victor Raskin, 243–80. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.


Dr. Imen Mzoughi, assistant professor, at the University of Tunis, Tunisia, on Secondment to the Faculty of Sciences and Arts of Sajer, University of Shaqra, Saudi Arabia is the writer of indexed and impacted papers. Her main areas of interest are interdisciplinarity, comparative literature and minor literatures. She designed and taught various courses. She supervised over 30 students on different topics.
ORCiD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8598-1754