Cherene Sherrard-Johnson's introduction places this literary classic in both the new modernist and transatlantic contexts and will be embraced by those interested in earlytwentieth-century women writers, novels about passing, the Harlem Renaissance, the black/white divide, and diaspora studies. Selected essays and poems penned by Fauset are also included, among them "Yarrow Revisited" and "Oriflamme," which help highlight the full canon of her extraordinary contribution to literature and provide contextual background to the novel.
Winner, MPCA/ACA Book Award, Midwest Popular Culture Association / Midwest American Culture Association, 2020
From classical Hollywood film comedies to sitcoms, recent political satire, and the developing world of online comedy culture, comedy has been a mainstay of the American media landscape for decades. Recognizing that scholars and students need an authoritative collection of comedy studies that gathers both foundational and cutting-edge work, Nick Marx and Matt Sienkiewicz have assembled The Comedy Studies Reader.
This anthology brings together classic articles, more recent works, and original essays that consider a variety of themes and approaches for studying comedic media—the carnivalesque, comedy mechanics and absurdity, psychoanalysis, irony, genre, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and nation and globalization. The authors range from iconic theorists, such as Mikhail Bakhtin, Sigmund Freud, and Linda Hutcheon, to the leading senior and emerging scholars of today. As a whole, the volume traces two parallel trends in the evolution of the field—first, comedy’s development into myriad subgenres, formats, and discourses, a tendency that has led many popular commentators to characterize the present as a “comedy zeitgeist”; and second, comedy studies’ new focus on the ways in which comedy increasingly circulates in “serious” discursive realms, including politics, economics, race, gender, and cultural power.
A provocative and unconventional call to dispossess the self of itself
Challenging the contemporary notion of “self-care” and the Western mania for “self-possession,” The Comic Self deploys philosophical discourse and literary expression to propose an alternate and less toxic model for human aspiration: a comic self. Timothy Campbell and Grant Farred argue that the problem with the “care of the self,” from Foucault onward, is that it reinforces identity, strengthening the relation between I and mine. This assertion of self-possession raises a question vital for understanding how we are to live with each other and ourselves: How can you care for something that is truly not yours?
The answer lies in the unrepresentable comic self. Campbell and Farred range across philosophy, literature, and contemporary comedy—engaging with Socrates, Burke, Hume, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, and Levinas; Shakespeare, Cervantes, Woolf, Kafka, and Pasolini; and Stephen Colbert, David Chappelle, and the cast of Saturday Night Live. They uncover spaces where the dispossession of self and, with it, the dismantling of the regime of self-care are possible. Arguing that the comic self always keeps a precarious closeness to the tragic self, while opposing the machinations of capital endemic to the logic of self-possession, they provide a powerful and provocative antidote to the tragic self that so dominates the tenor of our times.
Applying systems theory to the comedies of Chekhov, Balzac, Kleist, Moliere, and Shakespeare, A Concept of Dramatic Genre and the Comedy of a New Type: Chess, Literature, and Film approaches dramatic genre from the point of view of the degree of richness and strength of a character’s potential. Its main focus is to establish a methodology for analyzing the potential from multidimensional perspectives, using systems thinking. The whole concept is an alternative to the Aristotelian plot-based approach and is applied to an analysis of western and eastern European authors as well as contemporary American film.
This innovative study consists of three parts: The first part is mostly theoretical, proposing a new definition of the dramatic as a category linked to general systems phenomena and offering a new classification of dramatic genre. In the second part, Ulea offers a textual analysis of some works based on this new classification. She analyzes comedies, tragedies, and dramas on the same or similar topics in order to reveal what makes them belong to opposite types of dramatic genre.
Additionally, she considers the question of fate and chance, with regard to tragedy and comedy, from the point of view of the predispositioning theory. In the third part, Ulea explores an analysis of the comedy of a new type—CNT. Her emphasis is on the integration of the part and the whole in approaching the protagonist’s potential. She introduces the term quasi-strong potential in order to reveal the illusory strength of protagonists of the CNT and to show the technique of CNT’s analysis and synthesis.
Ulea’s research begins with the notion of the comic, traditionally considered synonymous with the laughable, and attempts to approach it as independent from the laughable and laughter. The necessity to do so is dictated by the desire to penetrate the enigmatic nature of Chekhov’s comedy. The result is A Concept of Dramatic Genre and the Comedy of a New Type: Chess, Literature, and Film, a completely new approach to potential and systems thinking—which has never been a focus of dramatic theory before. Such potential is the touchstone of the comic and comedy, their permanent basic characteristic, the heart and axis around which the comedic world spins.
In a grand tour of comic theater over the centuries, Erich Segal traces the evolution of the classical form from its early origins in a misogynistic quip by the sixth-century B.C. Susarion, through countless weddings and happy endings, to the exasperated monosyllables of Samuel Beckett. With fitting wit, profound erudition lightly worn, and instructive examples from the mildly amusing to the uproarious, his book fully illustrates comedy's glorious life cycle from its first breath to its death in the Theater of the Absurd.An exploration of various landmarks in the history of a genre that flourished almost unchanged for two millennia, The Death of Comedy revisits the obscenities and raucous twists of Aristophanes, the neighborly pleasantries of Menander, the tomfoolery and farce of Plautus. Segal shows how the ribaldry of foiled adultery, a staple of Roman comedy, reappears in force on the stages of Restoration England. And he gives us a closer look at the schadenfreude--delight in someone else's misfortune--that marks Machiavelli's and Marlowe's works.At every turn in Segal's analysis--from Shakespeare to Molière to Shaw--another facet of the comic art emerges, until finally, he argues, "the head conquers and the heart dies": Letting the intellect take the lead, Cocteau, Ionesco, and Beckett smother comedy as we know it. The book is a tour de force, a sweeping panorama of the art and history of comedy, as insightful as it is delightful to read.
Among the pioneers of television, Ernie Kovacs was one of the most original and imaginative comedians. His zany, irreverent, and surprising humor not only entertained audiences throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, but also inspired a host of later comedies and comedians, including Monty Python, David Letterman, much of Saturday Night Live, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Captain Kangaroo, and even Sesame Street. Kovacs created laughter through wildly creative comic jokes, playful characterizations, hilarious insights, and wacky experiments. "Nothing in moderation," his motto and epitaph, sums up well Kovacs's wholehearted approach to comedy and life.
In this book, Andrew Horton offers the first sustained look at Ernie Kovacs's wide-ranging and lasting contributions to the development of TV comedy. He discusses in detail Kovacs's work in New York, which included The Ernie Kovacs Show (CBS prime time 1952–1953), The Ernie Kovacs Show (NBC daytime variety 1956–1957), Tonight (NBC late-night comedy/variety 1956-1957), and a number of quiz shows. Horton also looks at Kovacs's work in Los Angeles and in feature film comedy. He vividly describes how Kovacs and his comic co-conspirators created offbeat characters and zany situations that subverted expectations and upended the status quo. Most of all, Horton demonstrates that Kovacs grasped the possibility for creating a fresh genre of comedy through the new medium of television and exploited it to the fullest.
An updated paperback version of the book heralded as “a new benchmark in Marx scholarship” by the Los Angeles Times
Before film made them international comedy legends, the Marx Brothers developed their comic skills on stage for twenty-five years. In Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage, Robert S. Bader offers the first comprehensive history of the foursome’s hardscrabble early years honing their act in front of live audiences.
From Groucho’s debut in 1905 to their final live performances of scenes from A Night in Casablanca in 1945, the brothers’ stage career shows how their characters and routines evolved before their arrival in Hollywood. Four of the Three Musketeers draws on an unmatched array of sources, many not referenced elsewhere. Bader’s detailed portrait of the struggling young actors both brings to vivid life a typical night on the road for the Marx Brothers and illuminates the inner workings of the vaudeville business, especially during its peak in the 1920s.
As Bader traces the origins of the characters that would later come to be beloved by filmgoers, he also skillfully scrapes away the accretion of rumors and mythology perpetuated not only by fans and writers but by the Marx Brothers themselves. Revealing, vital, and entertaining, Four of the Three Musketeers has taken its place as an essential reference for this legendary American act. Now, the updated edition adds newly discovered performances—some submitted by readers—and additional information provided by descendants of long-departed vaudevillians mentioned in the book.
“Bottom line is, I’m the kind of guy who’s happy to go to the opera, but I should like to be allowed to wear steel-toed boots with my evening suit. I like to read Harper’s with a chaser of Varmint Hunter Magazine. Maybe that’s why I enjoy a good show under canvas. Here we sit, brain-deep in arts and culture, but we’re also just people hanging out in a tent, some of us wearing boots, a few of us wearing Birkenstocks, but best of all we’re breathing free fresh air filled with music.”
From Scandihoovian Spanglish to snickering chickens, New York Times bestselling author and humorist Michael Perry navigates a wide range of topics in this collection of brief essays drawn from his weekly appearances on the nationally syndicated Tent Show Radio program. Fatherhood, dumpster therapy, dangerous wedding rings, Christmas trees, used cars, why you should have bacon in your stock portfolio, loggers in clogs—whatever the subject, Perry has a rare ability to touch both the funny bone and the heart.
Frank’s ethnography draws on her work as an exotic dancer in five clubs, as well as on her interviews with over thirty regular customers—middle-class men in their late-twenties to mid-fifties. Reflecting on the customers’ dual desires for intimacy and visibility, she explores their paradoxical longings for "authentic" interactions with the dancers, the ways these aspirations are expressed within the highly controlled and regulated strip clubs, and how they relate to beliefs and fantasies about social class and gender. She considers how regular visits to strip clubs are not necessarily antithetical to marriage or long-term heterosexual relationships, but are based on particular beliefs about marriage and monogamy that make these clubs desirable venues. Looking at the relative "classiness" of the clubs where she worked—ranging from the city’s most prestigious clubs to some of its dive bars—she reveals how the clubs are differentiated by reputations, dress codes, cover charges, locations, and clientele, and describes how these distinctions become meaningful and erotic for the customers. Interspersed throughout the book are three fictional interludes that provide an intimate look at Frank’s experiences as a stripper—from the outfits to the gestures, conversations, management, coworkers, and, of course, the customers.
Focusing on the experiences of the male clients, rather than those of the female sex workers, G-Strings and Sympathy provides a nuanced, lively, and tantalizing account of the stigmatized world of strip clubs.
Ideal for classroom use, this anthology of original essays by the leading authorities on women’s comedy surveys the disorderly, subversive, and unruly performances of women comics from silent film to contemporary multimedia
Winner, Susan Koppleman Award for Best Anthology, Multi-Authored, or Edited Book in Feminist Studies, Popular and American Culture Associations (PACA), 2017
Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee, Mindy Kaling, Melissa McCarthy, Tig Notaro, Leslie Jones, and a host of hilarious peers are killing it nightly on American stages and screens large and small, smashing the tired stereotype that women aren’t funny. But today’s funny women aren’t a new phenomenon—they have generations of hysterically funny foremothers. Fay Tincher’s daredevil stunts, Mae West’s linebacker walk, Lucille Ball’s manic slapstick, Carol Burnett’s athletic pratfalls, Ellen DeGeneres’s tomboy pranks, Whoopi Goldberg’s sly twinkle, and Tina Fey’s acerbic wit all paved the way for contemporary unruly women, whose comedy upends the norms and ideals of women’s bodies and behaviors.
Hysterical! Women in American Comedy delivers a lively survey of women comics from the stars of the silent cinema up through the multimedia presences of Tina Fey and Lena Dunham. This anthology of original essays includes contributions by the field’s leading authorities, introducing a new framework for women’s comedy that analyzes the implications of hysterical laughter and hysterically funny performances. Expanding on previous studies of comedians such as Mae West, Moms Mabley, and Margaret Cho, and offering the first scholarly work on comedy pioneers Mabel Normand, Fay Tincher, and Carol Burnett, the contributors explore such topics as racial/ethnic/sexual identity, celebrity, stardom, censorship, auteurism, cuteness, and postfeminism across multiple media. Situated within the main currents of gender and queer studies, as well as American studies and feminist media scholarship, Hysterical! masterfully demonstrates that hysteria—women acting out and acting up—is a provocative, empowering model for women’s comedy.
Only a Joke Can Save Us presents an innovative and comprehensive theory of comedy. Using a wealth of examples from high and popular culture and with careful attention to the treatment of humor in philosophy, Todd McGowan locates the universal source of comedy in the interplay of the opposing concepts lack and excess.
After reviewing the treatment of comedy in the work of philosophers as varied as Aristotle, G. W. F. Hegel, Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson, and Alenka Zupancic, McGowan, working in a psychoanalytic framework, demonstrates that comedy results from the deployment of lack and excess, whether in contrast, juxtaposition, or interplay.
Illustrating the power and flexibility of this framework with analyses of films ranging from Buster Keaton and Marx Brothers classics to Dr. Strangelove and Groundhog Day, McGowan shows how humor can reveal gaps in being and gaps in social order. Scholarly yet lively and readable, Only a Joke Can Save Us is a groundbreaking examination of the enigmatic yet endlessly fascinating experience of humor and comedy.
Beneath the unassuming surface of a progressive women’s college lurks a world of intellectual pride and pomposity awaiting devastation by the pens of two brilliant and appalling wits. Randall Jarrell’s classic novel was originally published to overwhelming critical acclaim in 1954, forging a new standard for campus satire—and instantly yielding comparisons to Dorothy Parker’s razor-sharp barbs. Like his fictional nemesis, Jarrell cuts through the earnest conversations at Benton College—mischievously, but with mischief nowhere more wicked than when crusading against the vitriolic heroine herself.
Women in comedy have traditionally been pegged as either “pretty” or “funny.” Attractive actresses with good comic timing such as Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Julia Roberts have always gotten plum roles as the heroines of romantic comedies and television sitcoms. But fewer women who write and perform their own comedy have become stars, and, most often, they’ve been successful because they were willing to be funny-looking, from Fanny Brice and Phyllis Diller to Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. In this pretty-versus-funny history, women writer-comedians—no matter what they look like—have ended up on the other side of “pretty,” enabling them to make it the topic and butt of the joke, the ideal that is exposed as funny.
Pretty/Funny focuses on Kathy Griffin, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres, the groundbreaking women comics who flout the pretty-versus-funny dynamic by targeting glamour, postfeminist girliness, the Hollywood A-list, and feminine whiteness with their wit and biting satire. Linda Mizejewski demonstrates that while these comics don’t all identify as feminists or take politically correct positions, their work on gender, sexuality, and race has a political impact. The first major study of women and humor in twenty years, Pretty/Funny makes a convincing case that women’s comedy has become a prime site for feminism to speak, talk back, and be contested in the twenty-first century.
Between 1971 and 1979, All in the Family was more than just a wildly popular television sitcom that routinely drew 50 million viewers weekly. It was also a touchstone of American life, so much so that the living room chairs of the two main characters have spent the last 40 years on display at the Smithsonian. How did a show this controversial and boundary-breaking manage to become so widely beloved?
Those Were the Days is the first full-length study of this remarkable television program. Created by Norman Lear and produced by Bud Yorkin, All in the Family dared to address such taboo topics as rape, abortion, menopause, homosexuality, and racial prejudice in a way that no other sitcom had before. Through a close analysis of the sitcom’s four main characters—boorish bigot Archie Bunker, his devoted wife Edith, their feminist daughter Gloria, and her outspoken liberal husband Mike—Jim Cullen demonstrates how All in the Family was able to bridge the generation gap and appeal to a broad spectrum of American viewers in an age when a network broadcast model of television created a shared national culture.
Locating All in the Family within the larger history of American television, this book shows how it transformed the medium, not only spawning spinoffs like Maude and The Jeffersons, but also helping to inspire programs like Roseanne, Married... with Children, and The Simpsons. And it raises the question: could a show this edgy ever air on broadcast television today?
In The Tragedy and Comedy of Life, Seth Benardete focuses on the idea of the good in what is widely regarded as one of Plato's most challenging and complex dialogues, the Philebus. Traditionally the Philebus is interpreted as affirming the doctrine that the good resides in thought and mind rather than in pleasure or the body. Benardete challenges this view, arguing that Socrates vindicates the life of the mind over the life of pleasure not by separating the two and advocating a strict asceticism, but by mixing pleasure and pain with mind in such a way that the philosophic life emerges as the only possible human life.
Benardete combines a probing and challenging commentary that subtly mirrors and illuminates the complexities of this dialogue with the finest English translation of the Philebus yet available. The result is a work that will be of great value to classicists, philosophers, and political theorists alike.
Following the most solemn moments in recent American history, comedians have tested the limits of how soon is “too soon” to joke about tragedy. Comics confront the horrifying events and shocking moments that capture national attention and probe the acceptable, or “sayable,” boundaries of expression that shape our cultural memory. In Tragedy Plus Time, Philip Scepanski examines the role of humor, particularly televised comedy, in constructing and policing group identity and memory in the wake of large-scale events.
Tragedy Plus Time is the first comprehensive work to investigate tragedy-driven comedy in the aftermaths of such traumas as the JFK assassination and 9/11, as well as during the administration of Donald Trump. Focusing on the mass publicization of television comedy, Scepanski considers issues of censorship and memory construction in the ways comedians negotiate emotions, politics, war, race, and Islamophobia. Amid the media frenzy and conflicting expressions of grief following a public tragedy, comedians provoke or risk controversy to grapple publicly with national traumas that all Americans are trying to understand for themselves.
In this innovative union of textual studies and performance criticism, Laurie Osborne explores the important ways in which an apparently single, unproblematic text is in fact multiple and various. Through a close analysis of the performance editions of Twelfth Night, she argues that the complex interaction between text and performance establishes a comedy as a work realized within changing social and erotic constructions.
Because it appears in a relatively clean and dated version in the Folio, Twelfth Night seems to be exempt from arguments for variant texts—but there are significant and persistent variations represented in the performance editions. Osborne's careful reading of these provides a crucial bridge linking theatre history and textual criticism. She employs a wide variety of approaches and disciplines—Shakespearean and Renaissance studies, theatre history, gender studies, contemporary literary criticism, and cultural history—to provide a fresh and engaging yet rigorous view.
Although she focuses on Twelfth Night, Osborne's argument applies more broadly to the history of performance and criticism, including a chapter on video versions of the play. Widely read in Shakespearean and Renaissance scholarship, she employs her archival research in promptbooks, the publishing history of the plays, and the history of Shakespearean production to accomplish a major job of scholarly integration and analysis of Shakespearean drama in performance.
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