Jessica Milner Davis

Hon. Associate, School of Letters, Art and Media, University of Sydney

Jessica Milner Davis BA PhD is an Honorary Associate in the School of Media, Arts and Letters at the University of Sydney. She is a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge, and was a Senior Fellow at the Instituto di Studi Avanzati, Università di Bologna in 2012. After research and teaching in the 60s and 70s at Stanford and Bristol Universities, she returned to Australia where from 1981-2006 she was Deputy Chancellor and then Pro-Chancellor for the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. She was also Honorary Research Associate and later Senior Visiting Fellow in the UNSW School of English, Media, and Performing Arts, Singapore. The many institutions at which she has been invited to present research seminars include All Souls College, Oxford, University of Zurich, Jagellonian University, Krakow, and Lasalle College of Performing Arts, Singapore.

Jessica participated in the first international Conference on Humour and Laughter in Cardiff, Wales, in 1976 (convened by the British Psychological Society), from which developed the International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS). She twice served as ISHS President (1996 and 2001) and co-chaired the 1996 ISHS Conference in Sydney. Her principal research interests lie in comic genres (especially farce), the theory and history of comedy, and cross-cultural studies of humour.

Since studying humour involves crossing a number of discipline boundaries, Jessica is specially interested in encouraging multi-disciplinary research and she founded and co-ordinates an Australian and New Zealand group of humour scholars, the Australasian Humour Studies Network at University of Sydney which has an annual Colloquium series. She has taught and examined in many areas of humour studies, including literary, stage and film comedy, violence and comedy, women’s humour, popular TV and stand-up comedy, and comparative studies of joking and attitudes to humour eg in Indonesia and Australia.

Her most recent books are two co-edited volumes on humour in Chinese life and culture, 2011 and 2013, Farce (updated revised edition, Transaction Publishing, 2003) and Understanding Humor in Japan (Wayne State University Press, 2006), which won the 2008 AATH book-prize for humour research. Jessica is a Book Review Editor and member of the Consulting Editorial Board for Humor: International Journal of Humor Research (Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin).


  • –present
    Hon. Associate, School of Letters, Art and Media, University of Sydney