When husbands die: Joke-telling in an Italian ladies’ club in Chicago

Gloria Nardini


This is a paper about women and language. In it women tell jokes, both individually and collaboratively, which are performances of verbal art. It is also a paper about ethnicity and gender, for in their joke telling, these women meld both discourses in seamless fashion. My analysis of a 2 minute 40 second transcript of “talk as play,” (Coates 151) explicates the powerful identity they fashion for themselves. Both this identity and the fun they have with each other are dependent, of course, upon understanding the context of their club, the Collandia Ladies’ Club.

Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Bauman, Richard
(1977) Verbal art as performance. Prospect Heights, Il: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
Castiglione, Baldesar
(1967) The book of the courtier. Translated by George Bull. London: Penquin Books.Google Scholar
Coates, Jennifer
(1996) Women talk. Oxford: Blackwell.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Douglas, Mary
(1968) The social control of cognition: Some factors in joke perception. Man 3: 361–376. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Geertz, Clifford
(1973) Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In Clifford Geertz (ed.), The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic, pp. 3–30.Google Scholar
Goffman, Erving
(1974) The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor.Google Scholar
Hymes, Dell
(1974) Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Nardini, Gloria
(1999) Che bella figura! The power of performance in an Italian ladies’ club in Chicago. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Saville-Troike, Muriel
(1982) The ethnography of communication. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Tannen, Deborah
(1989) Talking voices: Repetition, dialogue, and imagery in conversational discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Turner, Victor
(1987) The anthropology of performance. New York: PAJ Publications.Google Scholar