ENGL348N - Women and Comedy, a Very Serious Thing

In this course, though we will make extensive use of the world wide web, the WWW stands for Witty Women Writers—bold, wry, playful, challenging women who use humor to facilitate more full expression. Humor serves a wide variety of purposes. Comic relief can liven the tiresome mundane, ease great pain, inflect unbearable news or information so that it is bearable and can be received. Especially important for our course of study is that women and other groups traditionally regarded as minorities have long used humor to contest rigid and repressive orthodoxies in the hope of resituating their own relationship to society as a whole and thus transform society, or at least their relation to and status in society. Such use of humor will center our critical inquiry. We will explore by reading and rereading, from the page and from screens (of computer, cinema, and television), selected works from centuries of transatlantic literature and artistic performance. Though they are not quite like Wanda Sykes or Margaret Cho (whom we will examine), we will read Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, as well as examine the work of Whoopi Goldberg, Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, and Ellen Degeneres as we rethink customary divisions between high and low, public and private art and artistic performance. Issues of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and class will inform our critical inquiry. Two papers, an oral presentation, a final, and an appreciation for the importance of having fun required.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of department.