1 The Comic Intrusion

As we begin our circling around the phenomenon of the comic, a number of general questions at once suggest themselves: What is it? Where is it? How is it used? What does it mean? Given our circuitous approach (which is, or so it seems, dictated by the nature of the phenomenon), it will not be advisable to attempt answers to these questions in a rigorously systematic way. But it does make sense to make a preliminary stab, at least, at tackling the first question: What is this thing we are talking about?

An English-speaking individual with a measure of higher education is likely to start by taking out that great philological monument, the Oxford English Dictionary. Even if one is not interested at the moment in the ways a ...

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