AMCULT 205 - American Cultures
Section: 003 American Humor
Term: FA 2007
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
Credits:
3
Requirements & Distribution:
RE, HU
Waitlist Capacity:
unlimited
Consent:
With permission of instructor.
Lab Fee:
40
Repeatability:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This seminar explores the role of comedy in shaping and challenging racial, gender and sexual identities from the 20the century to the present. From black face minstrelsy to the work of more recent stand-up comedians, the course will seek to answer social questions posed by these performers. For example,

  • does comedy more often reflect gender, ethnic, and racial stereotypes or challenge them?
  • How do we account for the persistent emphasis upon racial and gender differences?
  • Can comedy be “politically correct” and still be funny?
  • How important is “in-group” laughter to comedy’s success and what should we make of the uncomfortable laughter of those not in the in-group?

We will explore the work of comics from Bert Williams and Stepin Fetchit to Freddie Prinze, Sr., Margaret Cho and Chris Rock. We will investigate the work of these comics through the ideas of modern thinkers who have written on the cultural history of American humor and the social and personal aspects of jokes and comedy.

This course is not a survey of comedy in the U.S. and cannot cover the entire history of major comedians and genres of comedy. Neither does it deal significantly with literary humor. However, we will use Constance Rourke’s American Humor (1931) — a core text in American Studies — as a model that links humor and comedy to the concept of identity, specifically, a sense of “American-ness.” We will try to answer the question, “What makes comedy in the U.S. distinctly ‘American’?” Can it be explained by the emphasis that comics and their audiences place upon cultural difference and diversity in modern American humor? How do we account for the recent popularity of relatively new comedic identities, such as “redneck” or “blue collar” comedians and “lesbian” stand-up comedy? Throughout the academic term, as we view and read this comic material, we will continue to ask ourselves, “Is this funny?” And if so, “Why?”

AMCULT 205 - American Cultures
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
P
28331
Open
9
8Fr or So
-
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
002 (REC)
P
28090
Open
4
4Fr or So
-
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
003 (LEC)
 
28091
Open
13
 
-
TuTh 2:00PM - 3:00PM
Note: Students will be auto-enrolled in lecture 003 when they elect a discussion section (sections 004-006).
004 (DIS)
P
28092
Open
7
7Fr or So
-
Th 5:00PM - 6:00PM
005 (DIS)
P
28093
Open
3
2Fr or So
-
F 9:00AM - 10:00AM
006 (DIS)
P
28094
Open
3
4Fr or So
-
F 11:00AM - 12:00PM
007 (LEC)
P
30930
Open
13
 
-
M 3:00PM - 6:00PM
Note: Students will automatically be enrolled in lab 008 when they elect lecture 007. Meets with HISTORY 230.008.
008 (LAB)
 
30931
Open
13
 
-
W 3:00PM - 5:00PM
Note: Laboratory section 008 is for film screenings. Meets with HISTORY 230.009.
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