An investigation of the applicability of theories of humour to internet memes

  • Krystian Musztafa

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


In this thesis, I report on how, and if we can use existing theories of humour in order to analyse new theories of humour, such as internet memes. This thesis takes the most influential and well known theories of humour such as incongruity theories, superiority and relief theories, as well as linguistic theories such as the SSTH and GVTH to aid in an investigation to how and if these can be effectively used to analyse new genres of humour.

This thesis also draws on cognitive studies in order to investigate how humour is processed and created in our minds in order to try and gain an understanding on how one may process new genres of humour.

Memes are a growing and popular form of humour. Some claim memes to be the successor to jokes and claim that they do not remember the last time they have told a joke. With the rising popularity of internet memes, this thesis takes on the challenge to investigate if internet memes are a new genre of humour, or if internet memes are jokes, under a new guise.

Most scholarly works on humour only take into consideration jokes, other forms of verbal humour and ‘’traditional’’ forms of humour, such as puns or wordplay. This thesis reports on whether internet memes can be analysed in the same or similar ways, or if a new approach is necessary.

Through a meticulous data collection method, this thesis gathers a large pool of internet memes to use as examples all while comparing the two genres of humour throughout the paper.

This thesis aims to answer three main research questions, which were carefully engineered in order to answer the main question this paper sets out: are internet memes truly a new genre of humour?
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorElizabeth Holt (Co-Supervisor) & Lesley Jeffries (Co-Supervisor)

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