English 40-1 - Spring, 2020

Introductory Topics in Literature

    Topic: Comedy

Class Information

Instructor: Shershow, Scott
CRN: 63985
Time: TR 1:40-3:00
Location: 229 Wellman


    This course considers comedy both as an ancient tradition and a vital instance of contemporary popular culture. On the table will be fundamental questions that have always been asked and never really answered, such as: what is a joke? why do people laugh? what makes something funny?

    We?ll study a variety of comic plays from Shakespeare to Shaw, and a few examples of modern film and television comedy. Along the way, we?ll also read some highlights of the long history of comic theory from Aristotle to Freud. Finally, we'll consider the history and practice of so-called "standup comedy."

    NOTE: the "standup comedy" performers we will study in this class sometimes address "mature" themes and use colloquial language of a kind that can be offensive to some people and in some contexts. Registering in this class will be taken as your agreement that you have no objection to studying such material in a serious way. Our own code of conduct, with regard to the language we use in our classroom, will remain unchanged.


    Evaluation will be based on two papers, a midterm examination, and a final exam.


    The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
    Other texts on electronic reserve
    Endgame, Samuel Beckett