21L.421 Comedy

Spring 2001

Image of Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan.
Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan. (Image courtesy of the German Propaganda Archive.)

Course Highlights

This course features a full set of assignments and an extensive reading list.

Course Description

This class surveys a range of comic texts from different media, the cultures that produced them, and various theories of comedy. Authors and directors studied may include Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Moliere, Austen, Chaplin.

This subject laughs and then wonders how and why and what's so funny. Sometimes it laughs out loud. Sometimes it spills into satire (and asks, what's the difference?). Sometimes it doesn't laugh at all, but some resolution seems affirmative or structurally functional, in some satisfying way (by what categoriy is Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet a "comedy"? how can Dante call his vision of an organized universe a "Comedy"?). We read jokes, literary texts, tales, satirical paintings, and films, and we address a few theories about how comedy works (does it affirm? does it critique? does it disrupt? does it tip the categories upside-down? does it release energy? does it cause trouble? how is it ithat so many different effects and emotions are called "comic"?). Is comedy a way of thinking, or a literary genre? Why is it that comedy raises so many questions; is that questioning energy where laugher comes from, anyway?

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.

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Prof. Stephen Tapscott

Course Meeting Times

Two sessions / week
1.5 hours / session