POS360_Critchley_lecture - POS360 International Relations...

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Spring 2010 Critchley, S. (2002) On Humor Lecture One: Critchley This lecture deals with only the Critchley readings. I will post another lecture next week that deals with the other readings on the theories of humor. The Critchely chapters are not what we might consider an “easy read.” With that said, I also wouldn’t describe these readings as overly academic, difficult, or obscure. One has to suspend a certain degree of expectation and be patient with the text to get to the really interesting points. Now, I was (and am) uncomfortable with dictating what you must get out of this set of readings—as I consider much of it to be philosophical and even poetic. We will all engage and interpret this text in various ways. Your reading and interpretation is valuable, and I do not want to foreclose or limit your understanding of the text by stating up front what I find to be important. For this reason, I would like you to read Critchley before reading this lecture. I would like everyone to read Critchley carefully, digest the material, and draw your own conclusions. Then read the lecture as I can offer some guidance and help point out the important parts. Stop. Read Critchley. Then proceed. Described below are some issues, debates, and themes that struck me as important. I. THE ROLE OF HUMOR IN THE SOCIAL WORLD Humor might just be a corporeal affect—comic relief with no real impact on the self or society. Critchley acknowledges this possibility in some jokes. Sometimes we shouldn’t read more into a joke than just the desire to make someone laugh. It’s fun. Leave it alone and don’t over analyze it. How do you hurt Lady Gaga? Pokerface. Hahahaha. Let’s not pretend that there is more to that joke than a simple reaction of laughter (or a smile). That joke (like Lady Gaga’s music) is not going to change the world. What is interesting in this text, however, is how we can also view humor as incredibly political, powerful, and as a mode of action. That is, humor may also have social consequences. There is more to humor than just simply the act of laughing. For example, Critchley notes at least five different ways of thinking about the role and impact of humor in society. 1) Humor expresses “the humanity of the human” (pg 9). It reveals something about us (the human species) to us (the individual trying to come to terms with his or her existence in this world). The “true joke” defamilarizes the familiar. It makes us see that thing or that practice that we have seen a thousand times before in a new light. Critchley describes this as seeing the world as an anthropologist or as if we were from another
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POS360_Critchley_lecture - POS360 International Relations...

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