English R1A

Reading and Composition: No Laughing Matter

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2018 Eisenberg, Emma Charlotte
MWF 11-12 211 Dwinelle

Book List

Greene, Graham: Our Man in Havana; Waugh, Evelyn: Scoop

Other Readings and Media

Short pieces from Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, Zadie Smith, George Mikes, Pont, and Max Beerbohm.
Screenings of The Thick of It, The Inbetweeners, Chewing Gum, and Bridget Jones's Diary.


Can comedy be an effective vehicle for social criticism? Or does “having a sense of humor” make social life easier only by helping us ignore life’s more unpleasant aspects? We will consider these questions while reading texts from a British tradition in which it is less the “stiff upper lip” than a penchant for irony, wit, and laughing it off that allows people to weather political and personal crisis. Examining particular comic devices, we will also analyze how comedy can enforce and revise national identity in a modern, globalized world that increasingly imperils it. Our identity as a class will also come to the fore—in screenings where some of us will laugh (or not laugh) at things that may or may not be laughing matters.

Although this course samples British comedy across a broad historical period (1729 to the present) in diverse forms, R1A’s ultimate goal is to help students hone their ability to both analyze arguments as readers and construct arguments as writers. This class’s assignments will include two essays, as well as more casual weekly writing assignments. Peer-review, GSI conferencing, and self-revision will all play a role in the writing process.

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