Fart and Bum Jokes: Everyday Religion and Children's Literature

Religion and Senses of Humour - Stephen E. Gregg

Anita Lawrence [+-]
University of Glasgow
After 25 years as a teacher, and headteacher, Anita Lawrence undertook an MEd in Children’s Literature, researching religious representation in children’s books. She became fascinated by the subject, and is now partway through a PhD examining the role of literature in helping children gain insights into religion, and why we appear wary of publishing religious fiction for children. She studies and writes from the perspective of sceptical agnosticism, and is passionate about the teaching of RE in schools and the importance of developing religious understanding and critical literacy skills at all points of education.


Children’s Literature particularly in the 21st Century, has had a strong focus on humour. Classic authors such as Dahl have been joined by more recent additions to the sector including Jeff Kinney, David Walliams, and Liz Pichon who all employ humour as the main driver for their stories, with slapstick, gore and terrible things happening to grown-ups at their heart. Deary’s Horrible Histories series, which has delivered to hoards of young people an approach which exposes them to the lived historical experience through hilarity, fart jokes, gore, word play, and a focus on the ridiculous (Scanlon 2011) has translated into television series and feature length films. And religion, in the few texts published with faith as a theme in the 21st Century, has been treated with humour by a number of well known, and lesser known, authors. Almond, Cottrell Boyce, Mian, Gleitzmann – all have tackled the lived religious experience through comedy in its various forms. Where they differ from many adult books which tackle religious scenarios and tropes is in the respectful and gentle way in which religion is treated – not making fun of faith, but using comedy to probe the lived experience of the protagonists in ways in which children will be engaged and interested. Few use religion as a focus for humorous derision: most use it to form the windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors (Bishop, 1990) which allow children access to the lived experience of others. In a publishing landscape where religion in children’s books is treated tentatively or ignored altogether (Miskec, 2011, Prothero 2007, Wood 1999) a bit of a laugh can go a long way towards developing the understanding, curiosity about others’ lives at which children’s literature excels.

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Lawrence, Anita. Fart and Bum Jokes: Everyday Religion and Children's Literature. Religion and Senses of Humour. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Nov 2024. ISBN 9781000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=43236. Date accessed: 31 May 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43236. Nov 2024

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