Skip to Main Content

WRIT 5.22 - Humor and Art

This is a course guide for WRIT 5.22 with Matthew Olzmann.

Course description

A recent article in the Guardian claimed that "Crafting good comedy is often more difficult than drama, but the art form is rarely given its due." This writing course will explore the relationship between humor and contemporary literary art. To better understand this relationship , we'll need to answer two questions: "What makes something funny?" and "What is art?" These questions are more complicated than they might seem. On the subject of humor, we can track everything that happens in the human body when we laugh--from what parts of our brains light up to which muscles are used (and in which order)--but when it comes to what actually causes us to laugh, the answers are more nebulous. And when it comes to art, well, Adorno once said, "It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident," This class will consider a handful of humor theories and a few definitions of art. Then we'll look at contemporary examples from selections of fictions, poetry, nonfiction, live comedic performances and (possibly) film. In many of these examples, humor might be a subtle or a minor element that only marginally contributes to the cumulative effects of the larger feature. In other examples--such as satire or standup comedy--humor might be the defining feature. Because this is a writing class, we'll write about our findings. We'll learn to shape our ideas, refine our arguments, and revise our writing to bring greater precision and clarity into the work. A sense of humor (though useful) is not required to take this class.

In the Library's collections

You can use one of these subject headings to start your research in the library's online catalog:

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book title(s)

Other library resource(s)

Finding scholarly articles & journal title(s)

You can find writings about humor in many publications. You can start your search for scholarly articles in a general index such as Academic Search Complete or Web of Science. Or you can use the search box at the top of the page.

Internet resource(s)

Citing and Tracking Your Bibliographic References

Use this guide to help you learn how to correctly cite and keep track of the references you find for your research.