Laughter and Politics|
Fall 2011 not offered
This course proposes a historical exploration of the relationship between humor and political order. Divided in three blocks (democracy, carnival, and commodity), the course travels from the ancient Athenian democracy and the Roman empire (where political comedy and satire acquired their canonical form and radical status), through the carnivals of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (where hierarchies and conventions were ridiculed and temporarily put upside down), to the modern world (where political laughter risks becoming a simple commodity for mass consumption). Is laughter inherently good or bad for the political sphere? Does it help creating a healthy citizenship? Does it liberate or alienate the individuals? The course will explore these and other questions by analyzing learned and popular expressions of political humor, with an eye in the classical tradition (Aristophanes, Erasmus, Swift) and the other in its contemporary formulations (comic books, TV shows, Web sites, and street art).
||Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Seminar||Grading Mode: Student Option|
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Readings will include Aristophanes, Horace, Erasmus, Lazarillo de Tormes, Jonson, Quevedo, Swift, Hasek. Pamphlets and materials from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the French Revolution, the First World War, the Soviet Revolution, fascist regimes. Bergson, Freud, Bakhtin,
Movies (RIDICULE, TO BE OR NOT TO BE, WELCOME MR. MARSHALL).
|Examination and Assignments: |
Three short papers and a longer final essay.
One paper will deal with a theoretical problem or a theoretical text concerning laughter.
One paper will analyze a major canonical text (Aristophanes, Swift...), serving to train the student in more aesthetic isues, such as the poetics of laughter, or the tradition and conventions of the comic canon.
One paper will analyze a minor text, such as a pamphlet or minor satirical piece. This will serve to introduce the student to the politics of laughter and problems of contextualization.
The final essay will deal with the contemporary situation and the use of laughter in relation to recent political affairs. Alternatively, the student may opt for creating a humoristic piece in which he or she reflects on political life and uses the strategies and conventions discussed in the course.
Depending on the density and complexity of the weekly readings, assignment will range from 50 to 100 pages per week.
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