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ENGL 440 A: Special Studies In Literature

The Politics of Humor:<br /> Satire and Irony and Mockery (oh my!)

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
SMI 309
Professor Harkins in front of bookshelf
Gillian Harkins

Additional Details:

Then suddenly another outburst of laughter. Strange laughter, frightening laughter, the laughter of hysteria, in which were mingled shame and pangs of conscience, and perhaps not the tears that follow laughter but the laughter that follows tears.

-- Alexander Herzen, My Past and Thoughts

This capstone asks how “humor” structures diverse literary forms and styles, from satire and parody to irony, caricature, and mockery. While this course might sound like fun – and hopefully will be — we will undertake our study in a rather serious way, reading literature alongside critical studies of race, gender, sexuality, and power. In particular, the class will actively deconstruct the ways in which racial and sex/gender hierarchies have often been used to organize the structure of humor, focusing as we move through our readings on the relation between racial and sexual satire and structural racism and hetero-sexism. Our historical focus will be on the recent past: the 1990s and 2000s. We will read novels that use humor to treat changing structures of race, gender and sexuality in relation to globalization, transnationalism, and new ecologies. In our class discussions, we will pay close attention to how humor combines rhetorical style and material context to describe, critique, or affirm existing relations of power. A fifteen page research paper or equivalent project will be required.

Required Texts:

Ruth L. Ozeki, My Year of Meats
Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place
Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

On-Line Materials: You will be required to access on-line materials through your UW catalyst account.

Catalog Description: 
Themes and topics offering special approaches to literature.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
March 16, 2016 - 11:01am