Mda 599, At the Edge of Humor



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MDA 599, At the Edge of Humor

Spring 2016



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Prof. Jennifer Greenhill (+ special guests)

Seminar meetings: Wednesdays, 2-4:50pm, SOS 250

Public lectures: selected Wednesdays, 12:30-2pm, SOS 250


Course description and goals

“Humor” has fascinated and perplexed theorists for centuries. Elastic and ephemeral, it evades analysis that would pin it down. Indeed, the operations and effects of humor’s various modalities can be especially difficult to parse in the realm of visual imagery. Where do “satire” and “parody” part ways, for example? Does “wit” thrive in textual formats but wither in imagery? Is “irony” headier than “slapstick”? How useful are these categories when dealing with the visual realm (and is “humor” an adequate umbrella concept under which they might be organized)? We will explore these questions by addressing both historical and contemporary examples, consulting both canonical texts and new research in the field. Our goal will be to develop methods for assessing the nuances of this work and to become sharper critics of “humorous” expression and the scholarship devoted to it. An international group of guest speakers structures the seminar, giving students the chance to interact with scholars and practitioners approaching the topic from a range of disciplinary perspectives. During some weeks, the class is preceded by 12:30 screenings or public lectures delivered by our invited guests.


Requirements

1. Attend all seminar meetings and lectures, complete assigned readings, and engage thoughtfully in class discussions, particularly during sessions with special guests.


2. Submit weekly (to Blackboard Discussion Board) five questions and/or comments focused on the assigned readings, films, Twitter feeds, and so on. Your questions and comments should demonstrate thoughtful synthesis of the material addressed and raise issues for further consideration in class. Deadline for weekly submission: 10pm Tuesdays before class.
3. Facilitate engagement with the work of one of our invited guests over the course of the semester by partnering with another member of the class to summarize the key concepts informing their scholarship and/or practice. During your assigned week, please distribute your assessment of our guest’s work, along with questions you would like to pose, by 10pm Tuesday before class (1500 words max).
4. Assess a style of humorous expression and/or foundational text not adequately addressed in the course, taking care to address its visual dimensions (or, in the case of a specific text, its applicability to visual material). Choose from a list of possible choices (to which we will add during the first two weeks of the semester—your role in fleshing out this list will be crucial). Post your assessment to the Blackboard Blog (by agreed-upon due date; 5,000 words max). This collaborative Blog will serve as a supplement to what we examine in our seminar sessions, resulting in a compendium of thought about key terms and ideas that have structured work on humor. The goal is to provide a resource, shaped by your interests, which you can (as it were) take with you at the end of the semester.
5. Final research project, which may consist of a 25-page paper or a creative endeavor requiring an equivalent amount of investment, labor, mastery and originality. (Note: you must have your project approved.) Project proposals (consisting of a 200-400 word abstract and annotated bibliography of at least 20 sources to be consulted), are due March 2nd.
Grade breakdown

-Participation (15%): attendance at all seminar meetings and lectures, completion of assigned readings, engagement in discussion, weekly submission of discussion questions to Blackboard Discussion Board.

-Assessment of the scholarship and/or practice of one of our invited guests (15%)

-In-depth assessment of a style of humorous expression and/or foundational text not adequately addressed in the course, posted to Blackboard Blog (20%)

-Final research project (50%)
Required texts (available at USC bookstore)

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Iswolsky (Indiana, 1984)

Mary Beard, Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (UCalifornia, 2015)

Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (Dover, 2005)

Matthew Bevis, Comedy: A very short introduction (Oxford 2013)

Noël Carroll, Humour: A very short introduction (Oxford, 2014)

Eric Jarosinski, Nein. A Manifesto (Grove Press, 2015)

David Robbins, Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy (Pork Salad P, 2011)

Gregory Williams, Permission to Laugh: Humor and Politics in Contemporary German Art (UChicago, 2012)
Suggested texts

Simon Critchley, On Humour (Routledge, 2002)

Sigmund Freud, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, trans. Strachey (Norton, 1960)

Jennifer A. Greenhill, Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age (UCalifornia, 2012)

Andrew Stott, Comedy (Routledge, 2014)
Schedule

Wk 1: Jan. 13: Introduction

Assigned texts:

-Noël Carroll, Humour: A very short introduction (Oxford, 2014)

-Matthew Bevis, Comedy: A very short introduction (Oxford, 2013)

Preparatory questions: These books nicely summarize the state of interdisciplinary, academic thinking about humor. Please compare the ways in which the authors approach the topic and consider which concepts speak to your understanding of how visual humor works.  If you had to predict five concepts/frameworks/strategies that will prove crucial to the conversations we’ll have this semester, what would they be? And which concepts/frameworks/strategies do you envision not being terribly useful when addressing visual humor (or, perhaps better, humor with a visual dimension)? Is visually-inflected humor a special species of humorous expression? Why or why not? What sorts of visual humor do you find funny? Can you analyze how your examples achieve the strange magic of making you laugh?

Wk 2: Jan. 20: Critique and self-critique in 19th century art and literature (on parody and burlesque)

Assigned texts:

-Bryan J. Wolf, “Washington Allston and the Aesthetics of Parody” in Romantic Re-Vision: Culture and Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century American Painting and Literature (UChicago, 1982), pp. 3-23.

Nicola Trott, “Wordsworth and the Parodic School of Criticism” in Steven E. Jones, ed., The Satiric Eye: Forms of Satire in the Romantic Period (Palgrave, 2003), pp.71-97.

-Jennifer A. Greenhill, “William Holbrook Beard Burlesques the Monster Museum” in Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age (UCalifornia, 2012), pp. 77-107.

-Linda Hutcheon, ch 2 “Defining Parody” and ch 3 “The Pragmatic Range of Parody” in A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms (UIllinois, 1985), pp. 30-68.
Supplemental:

-Mark Twain, “A Double-Barreled Detective Story” in The $30,000 Bequest, and Other Stories by Mark Twain (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906), 449-523 (pay attention to the references to Sherlock Holmes and to the opening of chapter 4).

-W. Keith Kraus, “Mark Twain’s ‘A Double-Barreled Detective Story’: A Source for the Solitary Oesophagus,” Mark Twain Journal 16 (Summer 1972): 10-12.

Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (Oxford, 1997).


Preparatory questions: Why has parody played such a central role in art about art, its limit conditions and possibilities? If parody is a dominant strain of humorous expression today, across media, can we perceive any connection to historical techniques? How should we parse parody, burlesque, satire, and irony? Is a parody always necessarily targeting the precedent imitates? Do you need to know what it is riffing on in order to get the joke? Does parody typically encompass critique? What constitutes a subtle parody? Is it always an intentional procedure? What forms might it take in art and in literature?
Wk 3: Jan. 27: Obscene humor, grotesque bodies, and political parody in the age of Cervantes

Guest: Sherry Velasco, USC Spanish and Portuguese, Gender Studies; Chair, French and Italian



Assigned texts:

-Miguel de Cervantes, chapter 18, Don Quixote, trans. Edith Grossman, pgs. 124-133.

-Sherry Velasco, “Obscene Onomastics and the Sexuality of Seeing in Cervantes’ Don Quixote,” chapter draft.

-Anon. “Tragic Ballad” (“Romance trágico” c. 1580-1590; Ms 3915 fol. 267v Biblioteca Nacional, España) [reprinted in Poesía erótica del Siglo de Oro, ed. Pierre Alzieu, Robert Jammes, Yvan Lissorgues, pp. 296-298].

-Anon. “Translation of Carajicomedia” and “Appendix B: The Erotic Language of Carajicomedia” in Carajicomedia: Parody and Satire in Early Modern Spain, ed. and trans. Frank A. Domínguez.

-Antonio Vignali, La Cazzaria. The Book of the Prick, ed. Ian Frederick Moulton (Introduction and final 30 pages of text: pp. 1-70; 131-165, 172-175).

-Mikhail Bakhtin, “The Grotesque Image of the Body and Its Sources” and “The Material Bodily Lower Stratum” in Rabelais and His World, trans. Iswolsky (Indiana U, 1984), pp. 303-436.
Preparatory questions: How should we define the grotesque and the carnivalesque? If carnival represents a temporary subversion of social hierarchies and power structures, is the grotesque fundamental to such reversal? To what degree is the grotesque a form of physical humor? What is the line between the grotesque and the abject, the decorative, the obscene? How does the grotesque overlap with pseudo-scientific discourses? And how has the grotesque been racialized, classed, and gendered in specific historical and cultural contexts? How might censorship inform its visual formation?
Wk 4: Feb. 3: NO CLASS (prof. away at College Art Association annual conference)
Wk 5: Feb. 10: Looking at laughter in Ancient Rome

Guest: Ann Marie Yasin, USC Art History and Classics



Assigned texts:

Mary Beard, Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (UC Press, 2014).

John R. Clarke, Looking at Laughter: Humor, Power, and Transgression in Roman Visual Culture, 100BC-AD 250 (UC Press, 2007), pp. 13-14, 51-62, 83-85, 109-161.
Preparatory questions: This week, we’re looking at scholarship on Ancient Rome as we consider the challenges of analyzing visual humor. What does Clarke’s visual emphasis add to Beard’s more thoroughgoing exploration? What does his text reveal about the potential pitfalls of academic writing on historical visual humor? Both scholars focus on laughter and the social frameworks for the production and consumption of humor. How does their material evidence (visual or otherwise) support their theories about laughter’s place in ancient Roman culture?
Wk 6: Feb. 17: Slapstick, gags, and other animated behaviors

Guest: Scott Bukatman, Stanford University, Art History, Film and Media Studies



Assigned texts:

-Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (1900).

-Scott Bukatman, introduction and chapters 1-4 in The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit (UC Press, 2012), pp. 1-163.

-Anca Parvulescu, “Cinema: or the Laughing Gas Party” in Laughter: Notes on a Passion (MIT, 2010), pp. 119-155.

-Donna Kornhaber, chapter 2 “The Slapstick Exemption” and 3 “Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and the Classical Style” in Charlie Chaplin, Director (Evanston: Northwestern, 2014), pp. 55-111.

-Michael North, chapter 1 "Camera Men” in Machine-Age Comedy (Oxford, 2008), pp. 27-52.



Watch: Charlie Chaplin’s The Pawnshop (1916), 24 min.
Supplemental:

-Herbert Spencer, “The Physiology of Laughter,” Herbert Macmillan’s Magazine (Nov. 1, 1859): 395-402.

-Noël Carroll, “Notes on the Sight Gag,” in Horton, ed., Comedy/Cinema/Theory (U California: 1991), 25-42.

Preparatory questions: How does slapstick work? What is the nature of the gag in various contexts? (Consider animation, film and television, as well as examples in fine art and literature.) Is laughter somehow mechanical? How is it linked by Bergson to the technological, the modern? Is the laughter he describes fundamentally distinct from the laughter of the ancients (explored in the previous unit)?

12:30 Screening: Frank Tashlin, Son of Paleface (Paramount, 1952), 95 min.
Wk 7: Feb. 24: Comic criticism: French Salon caricature and popular press parody

Guest: Julia Langbein, Oxford University, History of Art



Assigned texts:

-Julia Langbein, “Salon Caricature: Graphic Comedy and Modern Art in Nineteenth-Century France,” selections from book manuscript.

-Julia Langbein, “Les Arts Incohérents (1886-1893) and Exhibition Parody in Paris,” article draft.

-Charles Baudelaire, “On the Essence of Laughter, and generally of the Comic in the Plastic Arts” in The Mirror of Art: Critical Studies (London: Phaidon, 1955), pp. 133-153.

-Judith Wechsler, introduction, chapters 1 and 3, A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th-century Paris (Chicago: U Chicago Press, 1982).

-Klaus Herding, “Courbet’s Modernity as Reflected in Caricature” in To Venture Independence (New Haven: Yale U Press, 1991), pp. 156-187.


Supplemental:

-Frank Bruni, “Where Only the Salad Is Properly Dressed,” New York Times (Feb. 28, 2007).

-Julia Langbein, “Robert’s at the Penthouse Club: Frank takes a seat on Mahogany,” The Bruni Digest (March 1, 2007): www.brunidigest.blogspot.com
Preparatory questions: What are the basic principles and operations of caricature? How does Baudelaire’s definition of “the comic” build on or divert from other theories that we’ve encountered? How should we understand concepts such as “authenticity” in relation to caricature? What is the relation between caricature and parody, and where does caricature draw the line between respect and critique, truth and distortion? How does popular press parody of 19th-century France relate to and/or differ from contemporary examples in popular media?

Special session: 8pm, Thursday, Feb. 25: The comedy and drama of writing for television

Guests: Katherine Collins, screenwriter, Blindspot (NBC)

Lang Fisher, screenwriter, The Mindy Project (Hulu)

Assigned texts:

Andrew Stott, “Comic Identity” in Comedy (Routledge, 2014), pp. 40-61.

-Willa Paskin, “What the Decline of New Girl Reveals About How Hard it is for Sitcom Characters to Evolve,” Slate (January 5, 2016): http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/01/05/new_girl_season_5_on_fox_reviewed_why_its_so_hard_for_sitcom_characters.html

-Ben Travers, “How to Write for TV: Brooklyn Nine-Nine Scribe Laura McCreary Shares Her Secrets,” Indiewire (May 8, 2014): http://www.indiewire.com/article/television/how-to-become-a-working-tv-writer-one-womans-story

-Nick Shanman, “Single-Cam vs. Multi-Cam Sitcoms: What’s Better?” MediaSilo Blog (April 7, 2015): http://blog.mediasilo.com/single-cam-vs.-multi-cam-sitcoms-whats-better

-Emily Nussbaum, “The Price is Right: What advertising does to TV,” The New Yorker (October 12, 2015): http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/12/the-price-is-right-emily-nussbaum


Watch: episodes of Blindspot and The Mindy Project (our guests will suggest which ones)
Preparatory questions: How does humor work in a televisual framework? What are the differences between writing for laughs and writing for dramatic appeal? How do comedy writers script sight gags and visual punch lines? Do punch lines play a structuring role in the development of plot and character? Does the cliffhanger or the suspenseful pause function in a related way? How does the collaborative writing process work, and how is writing for a sitcom different from writing for other comedic formats (on TV, online, or in other media)?
Wk. 8: March 2: NO CLASS (go see a stand-up set and a sketch comedy performance in LA)

*Final project proposal due via email
Wk. 9: March 9: The ephemerality and materiality of jokes

Assigned texts:

-Sigmund Freud, “The Purpose of Jokes, “The Mechanism of Pleasure and the Psychogenesis of Jokes,” and “The Motives of Jokes—Jokes as a Social Process” in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), trans. and ed., James Strachey (Norton: 1960), 106-193.

-Alison Ross, “I say, I say, I say” and “Stand-up comedy” in The Language of Humor (Routledge, 1998), pp. 7-26, 99-109.

-T.W. Robertson and E.P. Hingston, eds., Artemus Ward’s Panorama (As Exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, London (Carleton: 1869).

-Josiah Holland, “Triflers on the Platform,” Scribner’s Monthly 3 (February 1872): 489.

-Mark Twain, “How to Tell a Story” (1895) in Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches and Essays, 1891-1910 (Library of America, 1992): 201-206.

-Max Eastman, “To Diagram a Joke” in Enjoyment of Laughter (Simon and Schuster, 1936), pp. 279-289.

- Lawrence E. Mintz, “Standup Comedy as Social and Cultural Mediation,” American Quarterly 37 (Spring 1985): 71-80.


Supplemental:

-Kliph Nesteroff, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy (Grove, 2015).

-Jennifer A. Greenhill, “Humor in cold dead type: performing Artemus Ward’s London panorama lecture in print” Word & Image vol. 28, no. 3 (July-September 2012): 257-72.
Documentaries you might want to consult: The Art of Stand-up (BBC, 2011); Misery Loves Comedy (2015); Women Aren’t Funny (2014); Comedian (Jerry Seinfeld, 2002); Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (Albert Brooks, 2005); The Aristocrats (2005); and/or any of the many documentaries about particular stand-up comedians and their strategies.
Podcasts you might want to consult: “The Writers of Key and Peele” (Oct. 13, 2014), “The Writers of SNL’s Weekend Update,” (Nov. 10, 2014), UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) Digital Podcast
Preparatory questions: Consider strategies of stand-up comic performance, from short-form jokes to the longwinded humorous story and everything in between. What is the nature of the social environment of the theatre and how do the expectations and responses of audience members structure the act? In what ways is theatrical performance a visual art? How successfully might jokes move from page to stage and back again? What gets lost in the translation and what is the nature of text’s visuality?
Wk. 10: March 16: NO CLASS (Spring break)
Wk. 11: March 23: Racial performativity and satirical critique

Guest: Keith Harris, UC Riverside, English, Media and Cultural Studies



Assigned texts:

-Keith Harris, “’That Nigger’s Crazy’: Richard Pryor, Racial Performativity, Cultural Critique” in Audrey Thomas McCluskey, ed., Richard Pryor: The Life and Legacy of a ‘Crazy’ Black Man (Indiana U Press, 2008), 23-38.

-Andrew Stott, “Race and Ethnicity” in Comedy (Routledge, 2014), pp. 105-126.

-Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “The Signifying Monkey and the Language of Signifyin(g): Rhetorical Difference and the Orders of Meaning” in Abby Wolf, ed., The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader (Basic Civitas, 2012), pp. 234-286.

-Rachael Ziady DeLue, “Envisioning Race in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled,” in Hamlet and Coleman, eds., Fight the Power! The Spike Lee Reader (Peter Lang: 2009), 61-88.

-Luvena Kopp, “Satirizing Satire: Symbolic Violence and Subversion in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled,” in Derek C. Maus and James J. Donahue, eds., Post-Soul Satire: Black Identity after Civil Rights (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2014), pp. 214-227.


Watch: Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), 96 min; Spike Lee, Bamboozled (2000), 135 min.
12:30 lecture: Keith Harris, “’…is it something I said’: Richard Pryor, Racial Performativity, Visual Humor”
Preparatory questions: How is the visuality of race envisioned in Richard Pryor’s stand-up and Spike Lee’s film, Bamboozled? What are the multiple ways in which race is performed in each instance? How is humor mobilized to investigate the operations and effects of prejudice and stereotype? What are the stakes of satire in the context of racialized representation? When are racialized interpretations of humorous expression problematic?
Wk. 12: March 30: Stupidity

Guest: Morgan Labar, Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne, History of Art and Philosophy



Assigned texts:

-Morgan Labar, “Paul McCarthy’s Ketchup Sandwich (1970): Regressive Fun and Conceptual Stupidity,” article draft.

-Jean-Yves Jouannais, “The Muishkin Century, or Idiocy in Art,” Art Press 216 (September 1996): 32-42.

-Joshua Decter, “Stupidity as Destiny,” Flash Art 178 (October 1994): 73-6.

-Mel Ramsden, “Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe’s As-Silly-As-You-Can-Get Brice Marden’s Painting,”The Fox 2 (1975): 8-13.

-Isher-Paul Sahni, “More than Horseplay: Jackass, Performativity, and the MoMA,” Studies in Popular Culture 35: 2 (Spring 2013): 69-94.

- Robin Kelsey, “Playing Hooky/Simulating Work: The Random Generation of John Baldessari,” Critical Inquiry 38:4 (Summer 2012): 746-775.
Watch: episodes from MTV’s Jackass (2000-2002) or Jackass: The Movie (2002).
12:30 lecture: Morgan Labar, “Dumb or Dumber? Assessing the Criticality of Stupidity”
Preparatory questions: Is stupidity always dumb? Is stupidity’s natural domain the body and physical humor? When does it have the potential for conceptual rigor? If conceptually rigorous, can it still be stupid? What does stupidity have to do with silliness, play, fun, irreverence?
Wk. 13: April 6: Deadpan (meh, whatever…)

Guest, Eric Jarosinski of Nein. Quarterly



Assigned texts:

-Twitter: Nein. @NeinQuarterly, Ethicist for Hire @ethicistforhire, Existential Comics @extistentialcoms, Werner Twertzog @WernerTwertzog, VeryBritishProblems @SoVeryBritish, Shit Academics Say @AcademicsSay,

-Eric Jarosinski, Nein. A Manifesto (NY: Black Cat, 2015).

-Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” Putnam’s Magazine (November and December 1853): 546-550, 609-616.

http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=putn;cc=putn;rgn=full%20text;idno=putn0002-5;didno=putn0002-5;view=image;seq=0554;node=putn0002-5%3A15 and http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=putn;cc=putn;rgn=full%20text;idno=putn0002-6;didno=putn0002-6;view=image;seq=0617;node=putn0002-6%3A3

-Gene Buonaccorsi, “Twitter Jokes and the Philosophical Origins of Humor,” The Atlantic (January 27, 2015): http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/twitter-jokes-and-the-philosophical-origins-of-humor/384810/

-Renxian Zhang et al, “Recognizing Humor on Twitter,” CIKM ’14: proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, November 3-7, 2014, Shanghai, China, p. 889

-“Twitter’s future: How high can it fly?” The Economist (November 8, 2014):

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21631045-all-its-success-so-far-social-media-firm-may-not-achieve-scale-many-investors-hope
Supplemental:

Félix Fénéon, Novels in Three Lines, trans. Luc Sante (New York Review Books Classics, 2007).


12:30 lecture: Eric Jarosinksi, “Nein. A Manifesto”
Preparatory questions: How does Twitter work as a forum for humor? What are its visual properties? What does the character limit allow and what forms of humor does it facilitate? Do the techniques of Twitter humor resonate with any of the historical forms we’ve explored? Is Instagram its closest (more obviously visual) analogue? What does an Instagram joke look like? What is at stake in the translation of a Twitter feed to the framework of a book?
Wk. 14: April 13: Cute

-Daniel Harris, “Cute” in Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism (MJF books, 2000), 1-21.

-Lori Merish, “Cuteness and Commodity Aesthetics: Tom Thumb and Shirley Temple” in Rosemarie Garland Thomson, ed., Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (NY: NYU Press, 1996), pp. 185-203.

-Theodor Adorno, “Is Art Lighthearted?” in Rolf Tiedemann, ed., Notes to Literature, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen, vol. 2 (NY: Columbia U Press, 1992), pp. 247-253.

-Sianne Ngai, “The Cuteness of the Avant Garde,” Critical Inquiry 31 (Summer 2005): 811-847.
Supplemental:

-Daniel Sherer, “Heidi on the Loos: Ornament and Crime in Mike Kelley’s and Paul McCarthy’s Heidi” in Yehuda E. Safran et al., Adolf Loos: Our Contemporary (NY: Columbia U Press, 2012), pp. 63-70.


Preparatory questions: How is cuteness funny and why does something cute sometimes make us laugh? What does cuteness have to do with the grotesque? Why has cuteness historically been so entertaining, so marketable? What does it mean to conceive of avant-garde aesthetic strategies as simultaneously revolutionary and adorable?
Wk. 15: April 20: Postmodern play, serious nonsense

Guest: Gregory Williams, Boston University, History of Art & Architecture



Assigned texts:

-Gregory H. Williams, Permission to Laugh: Humor and Politics in Contemporary German Art (U Chicago, 2012).


12:30 lecture: Gregory Williams, “Humor and mistranslation in the work of Martin Kippenberger”
Preparatory questions: What forms of humor are associated with postmodernism and with art produced in post-Wall Germany, specifically? What interpretive challenges are presented by the works Williams addresses, and how do they complicate and/or extend stereotypes about German humorlessness? How does Witz work? How useful are concepts like deadpan, nonsense, irony, and stupidity with respect to the production of artists such as Kippenberger?

Wk. 16: April 27: Concrete comedy

Guest: David Robbins, contemporary artist and writer



Assigned text:

-David Robbins, Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy (Pork Salad Press, 2011).


12:30 lecture: David Robbins, “Concrete Comedy”
Preparatory questions: How does the framework of “concrete comedy” complicate the categories of humorous expression we’ve tested throughout the semester? What forms and modalities does it encompass? Visit an exhibition that includes examples of concrete comedy. Come to class prepared to discuss them (and/or examples that don’t quite fit this framework).
(Possible special session): 7pm, Thurs., April 28: sharing of final research projects
Final projects due Wednesday, May 11th



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