English R1B

Reading and Composition: What's Serious About What's Funny?

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Fall 2013 Beck, Rachel
MW 4-5:30 225 Wheeler

Book List

Booth, Wayne: Craft of Research; Mullen, Harryette: Sleeping with the Dictionary; Shakespeare, William: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Watterson, Bill: The Essential Calvin and Hobbes

Other Readings and Media

Other assorted short readings on bspace


"Comedy proceeds out of suffering.  Usually someone else's."--Joseph Gelmis

"Comedy is in long shot, tragedy in close-up."--Charlie Chaplin

In this course we will consider a series of formal and historical questions.  How (and when) does comedy transform from something defined by generic conventions (a theatrical production that ends in marriage instead of death) into something defined by audience reaction (ideally, laughter)?  What are some of the societal and psychological roles that humor might serve now, and how has our understanding of those roles changed over time?  Through class discussion, essays, and research writing, we will engage with a range of poetry, drama, comics, film and short stories.  But we will also explore the writing of various philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists who have tried to theorize why we laugh and what makes something funny.  Some of the literature we will encounter constantly shifts between the "long shot" of comedy and "close-up" of tragedy; as a result, we will also try to account for the vertiginous emotional and aesthetic effects of tragicomedy.

Note:  The instructor, topic, book list, and course description of this section of English R1B changed in late June, but the time and location remain the same.

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