English 166

Special Topics: American Humor: Books & Movies

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2020 Starr, George A.
Note slightly revised time: Tues. 5-8 PM Note new location: 126 Wheeler


In this course short 19th- and 20th-century writings available electronically, by such authors as G. W. Harris, J. J. Hooper, Mark Twain, F. P. Dunne, G. Ade, R. Lardner, J. Thurber and the like, will be read and discussed, with the aim not of constructing a history but of exploring the roles of psychology, society, politics and language in American humor. Much of the course will follow the shift from live stage and printed word to radio and movie as the chief vehicles of American humor by focusing first on Chaplin, Keaton and other masters of the silent era, then on the range of comic styles and genres of the 30’s and 40’s. Developments since W. W. II, including the advent of television and new generations of humorists, will also be considered.

Writing will consist of one  essay of 10-12 pages. There will be no quizzes or exams, but the course will be conducted as a seminar: attendance and participation will be expected, and will affect grades.

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