ENGL479C - Selected Topics in English and American Literature after 1800; Stand-Up As/And American Culture

Stand-up comedy is one of the United States’ original contributions to the world of humor. After exploring some basic theories of the funny from Freud to post-structuralism, this course will set off to study the nature of Stand-up as a literary genre and its cultural function in American society since the late 1950s. What defines Stand-up and how has it evolved? Is it cathartic, social criticism, a form of jeremiad or of the carnivalesque? What specific role does it play in a highly pluralized, multi-ethnic society such as the US? We will be analyzing the routines of significant Stand-up comedians including, among others, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Lisa Lampanelli, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle and Louis CK, as well as considering the impact of gender and race on Stand-up. Please be aware that the material studied in this seminar contains sexually explicit,  sexist, racist, blasphemous and otherwise highly politically incorrect language.