From the Website:
“Comedy has been a crucial presence on the screen since the origins of cinema over a century ago, and on the stage for millennia, with many literary critics finding the roots of western comic dramas in ancient Athens and Rome. Still, critics continue to wrestle with definitions of comedy, theories of laughter, and what the two have to do with each other. This course approaches comedy from several perspectives: the narrative structures associated with comedy; the psychological structures associated with joke-making and laughter; and the imagery and performance modes associated with carnival and the grotesque, through which social structures are challenged under the guise of laughter.
The first half of the course will emphasize comedy as a narrative form by studying well-known theories of comic structure (Northrop Frye) and laughter (Henri Bergson and Sigmund Freud). In the second half, we will read Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World, a sweeping study of the power of laughter, the body and the popular as a means of social insurgency, written by a Marxist literary theorist during the years of Stalinist repression. We will look at recent critical work on film and TV comedy, which revises classic theories with new perspectives on gender and race. We will consider the validity of “universal” theories of comedy and laughter, as well as the radical potential of comedy to challenge authority, upset hierarchy, and express visions of utopia.”