The Literature of Laughter
Run by School of Arts, Culture and Language
20.000 Credits or 10.000 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Prof Sue Niebrzydowski
Overall aims and purpose
This module investigates some of the following questions by means of the study of comic texts from a variety of periods and genres: What is comedy? What do we laugh at, and why? How are laughter, wit and comedy inter-related? Do different literary genres inspire different kinds of laughter? Is laughter therapeutic and/or malicious? To what extent, and why, does the nature of wit change according to historical period, and is laughter therefore culture-specific? Is parody a legitimate sort of literary laughter? What is satire and how does it function? To what extent is laughter beyond words and dependent on the visual humour of cartoon, illustration, or stage and screen action? What are the links between gender and laughter? What are the connections between laughter and anger, and how serious is laughter? Though this course is designed to foster analytical and critical thought, the range of hilarious texts to be read and discussed frequently provokes real laughter and enjoyment among those following (and teaching) the module.
The module is organised on a chronological basis, moving from Chaucer to Monty Python and beyond, taking in on the way a selection of texts by Shakespeare, Wycherley, Pope, Swift, Austen, Dickens, and comic verse. The lectures place the texts in their historical and cultural contexts, while the seminars focus on the week’s specified text for close reading and discussion. Both the lectures and the smaller groups are consistently concerned with the module’s over-riding questions about the nature of literary laughter. Concepts such as wit and satire are analysed, along with some of the recurring topics of humorous writing: religion, politics, sex and gender. The major functions of laughter – for stereotyping, for self-defence, for reform, rebellion, or release of tension – are highlighted for both their continuity and their difference in specific literary and cultural contexts.
Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium
Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps
Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities:
• Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production
Analyse comic texts in English in a variety of genres from a range of periods and settings
Demonstrate critical awareness of the interrelationships of text, genre, literary tradition and cultural context
Participate in an informed way in the critical discussion of literary texts and concepts
Show preliminary mastery of academic writing skills, including scholarly referencing and bibliography
Understand the concepts of laughter and comedy, and of the ways in which they have changed through English literary history from the medieval period through to contemporary writing
Teaching and Learning Strategy
There are two one-hour lectures per week for this module, introducing concepts, texts, authors, historical periods and literary genres. The lectures are designed to relate closely to the reading of primary texts, linking directly to the particular text set for discussion in the seminar each week.
In addition to the two lectures and one seminar per week, students also meet in smaller study groups for one hour each week. The purpose of the study group meeting is to prepare for the seminar by carrying out a number of tasks set in advance by the tutor. These can include reading a text, performing or watching a performance of a play, answering a series of questions about the text in relation to the key themes of the module, researching a particular aspect of the work, or preparing a presentation.
Private study involves a variety of related tasks: reading the primary texts set each week; researching them and the key concepts of the module through further primary and extensive secondary reading; answering questions and making notes in preparation for the study group and seminar; researching, planning and writing the two assignments during the semester; and revising for the exam at the end of the semester.
There is a one-hour seminar each week for this module, during which the set reading for the week is discussed. The format is interactive and the focus is on involving all participants in analysing the text, paying particular attention to its comic elements and strategies. The seminar is also the setting where advice is given on written work, both the practice essay and the assessed mid-term assignment.
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
Talis Reading listhttp://readinglists.bangor.ac.uk/modules/qxe-1004.html
Courses including this module
Optional in courses:
- 3Q5Q: BA Cymraeg and English Literature year 1 (BA/CEL)
- W890: BA Creative&Professional Writing year 1 (BA/CPW)
- W89P: BA Creative and Professional Writing with Placement Year year 1 (BA/CPWP)
- W899: BA Creative & Professional Writing with International Exp year 1 (BA/CRIE)
- 3QV1: BA History and English Literature year 1 (BA/ELH)
- QQC3: BA English Lang and Lit year 1 (BA/ELLIT)
- QQCF: BA English Language & English Lit [with Foundation Year] year 1 (BA/ELLITF)
- 32N6: BA English Literature and Music year 1 (BA/ELM)
- 32N7: BA English Literature & Music with International Experience year 1 (BA/ELMIE)
- 32M8: BA English Literature with Theatre and Performance year 1 (BA/ELTP)
- 2P17: BA English Literature and Creative Writing year 1 (BA/ENCW)
- 2P1P: BA English Literature and Creative Writing with Place Yr year 1 (BA/ENCWP)
- Q3Q2: BA English Language w English Lit year 1 (BA/ENGEL)
- 8H25: BA English Literature year 1 (BA/ENGL)
- 8H2P: BA English Literature with Placement Year year 1 (BA/ENGLP)
- 8H26: BA English Literature (with International Experience) year 1 (BA/ENIE)
- 3P3Q: BA Film Studies and English Literature year 1 (BA/FSEL)
- 3HPQ: BA Media Studies and English Literature year 1 (BA/MEN)
- R801: BA Modern Languages and English Literature year 1 (BA/MLEL)
- M115: LLB Law with English Literature (International Experience) year 1 (LLB/ILEL)
- M1QK: LLB Law with English Literature year 1 (LLB/LWEL)