humor literature

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Humorous Literary Genres by Don L F Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen Two Important Literary Journals for High School Teachers Writers vs Readers Literature with Fan Bases Riorden Meyers & Rowling Trekkies & Nerdfighters Nerdfighters and DFTBA: “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome” Two Literary Conundrums: HUMOR IS NOT A GENRE • David Lubar, an author of humorous books for teenagers, pointed out in a recent interview that just as humor fits into most areas of art and entertainment, it fits into literature “where it brings pleasure, eases pain, and makes the world a better place.” • And although many of us speak of humor as if it were a genre, “it’s really an element— actually—make that an assortment of elements.” (VOYA Aug 2012, p 217) FOUR MODES OF LITERATURE • An alternative to talking about genres is to look at the modes of literature • Modes can be communicated through all kinds of symbols as illustrated by the Giuseppe Archimboldo paintings from the 1500s where he used plants to represent the four seasons of the year • Even though weather patterns differ around the world, the four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter) are recognized and celebrated as universal symbols of our overall life experiences • This inspired Northrup Frye to divide different kinds of literary works into four modes symbolized by the four seasons Northrup Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism SPRING = ROMANCE • Symbolically, Romance is connected to spring, babies, sunrise, and other new beginnings • The popular culture ties romance to love, while in literary criticism it is tied in with a quest and exaggerations in which the fears of nightmares are changed to the happiness of daydreams 10 • People tend to create ironic humor when they feel that all is lost so there is nothing left to but laugh at one’s own predicament The dark humor that became popular in the mid20th century was created in response to fears induced by the atomic bomb and feelings of helplessness • The creators of satire, on the other hand, are purposely exposing some kind of a problem and pointing toward a solution French scholar, Daniel Royot, says that while utopias and dystopias might be token fantasies that are grotesque, they still contain “an implicit moral standard.” • Benign Humor is a mild type of satire with much word play Examples include Alice in Wonderland, the Bertie Wooster and Jeeves novels, Peter Rabbit, Through the Looking Glass, The Wind and the Willows, and Winnie the Pooh 36 37 38 Scientific Study of Literature: 39 A Satirical Example Using Benign Humor • This Make-Way-forDucklings sign near a Tempe park is a parody of an incident in Robert McCloskey’s picture book where a Boston policeman stops traffic for a family of ducks • People familiar with the story smile and also recognize that they too should watch for ducks 40 Tragedy, Irony, and Satire (CONTINUED) Three types of humor that contribute to a tragic mode •Gallows humor includes Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, Fargo, The Loved One, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Portnoy’s Complaint, Pulp Fiction, Slaughterhouse 5, and The World According to Garp •Horatian Satire is mild and amusing It is named for Horace, the Roman poet and writer who lived 65-08 BCE Contemporary examples include Animal Farm, Brave New World, Gulliver’s Travels, Little Big Man, Lysistrata, and The Screwtape Letters •Juvenalian Satire is harsh and bitter It is named for the Latin author Juvenal, who lived in the 1st and early 2nd Centuries A.D Contemporary examples include 1984, Clockwork Orange, Fahrenheit 451, Lord of the Flies, and A Modest Proposal 41 CONTEMPORARY INFLUENCES ON LITERARY MODES MULTICULTURALISM •Now that we live on a “flat earth,” authors are welcome to use humor to explore complications connected to such changes and to include vernacular humor •Excellent examples include Sherman Alexie’s Confessions of a Part-Time Indian and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help 42 NEARLY EVERY BOOK THAT MAKES IT TO A BEST-SELLER LIST CONTAINS SOME HUMOR Readers cannot—and not want to—laugh all through a book But they want some humor to balance out serious and tragic parts Virtually all authors who promote their books on TV talk shows (e.g The Colbert Report) are expected to engage in witty repartee that will hint at romantic and comic modes 43 HUMOROUS ALLUSIONS William Shakespeare is only one of several famous authors who would probably be surprised at how today we use his words and phrases as an efficient way of establishing mode Kiss Me Kate alludes to his Taming of the Shrew, Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap alludes to the tragic play within the play from Hamlet, and we all recognize the tragic implications of “Et tu Bruté?” 44 TODAY’S PROBLEM NOVELS ARE WHAT USED TO BE CALLED “BILDUNGSROMAN” These are stories that trace the growth and development of a young person Most contemporary examples are really romances disguised as realism We all know that there is plenty of humor in “growing up,” but successful authors are the ones who can write about the problems humorously without disrespecting the young readers Louis Sachar, M E Kerr, Gary Paulson, and Jack Gantos are able to this 45 FILMS AND THEIR RAISING OF EXPECTATIONS The immediacy and the advancements in film technology, including the ability to take and re-take particular scenes, means that authors of books have to work harder to create humor that will compete But writers have one advantage over film makers in that they can use an omniscient viewpoint and include characters’ thinking 46 COMIC BOOKS, VIDEO GAMES, MANGA, GRAPHIC NOVELS, and FILMS Because fantasy and science fiction require a special suspension of disbelief, the creators are given freedom to develop new and different kinds of humor as in such books as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter Pan, and The Adventures of Walter Mitty 47 PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT As shown by this teenager buying a ticket to watch Johnny Depp in The Pirates of the Caribbean, people want to be personally involved in creating their own humor 48 ALAN Workshop at National Council of Teachers of English 49 How It Should Have Ended: 50 [...]... Ninja are the Eirons 29 Quotes from Famous Authors: /literature 30 Mimetic or “Realistic” Humor (Fall) This is the largest part of people’s lives and includes all kinds of humor making use of a variety of techniques •“Realistic” humor demonstrates an interesting crossover between literature and real-life because in a way it is measuring the care and the skill with which... Mimetic or “Realistic” Humor (CONTINUED) • When comedians don masks and borrow voices, the interplay of conflicting masks and voices results in an awareness of open or subtle incongruities French scholar Daniel Royot says that without the interplay, the result is parody and grotesque humor “too much like Jerry Lewis’s stuff.” He contrasts the visual humor of Mel Brooks with the satirical humor of Woody Allen... They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted • Perfect Husbands: and Other Fairy Tales • Untamed and Unabashed: Essays on Women and Humor in British Literature 32 Mimetic or “Realistic” Humor (CONTINUED) • Barreca says that “Women’s lives have always been filled with humor. ” It emerged “as a tool for survival in the social and professional jungles” and works as a “weapon against the absurdities of... out of balance, are eccentrics or grotesques • Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is filled with humors characters, although they are not quite as funny as is Sheldon in TV’s The Big Bang NAME SOME OTHER POP CULTURE CHARACTERS WHO FIT THIS CATEGORY 28 Alazons and Eirons as Humors Characters • “Alazons and Eirons are stock humors characters going back to Greek drama Alazons are overly confident braggarts getting... 14 So What Does This Mean to Humor? • Let’s brainstorm and see if we can figure out what kinds of animals, weather, food, or geological formations an author would likely use if he or she wanted to establish one of these four modes • Try thinking of examples from television, film, or literature that clearly fit into one of the four categories • Then let’s... and/or racial peculiarities 27 Type 2: Comedy of Humors • This second type of Comedy goes back to the belief of medieval physiology that human dispositions are based on the balance of the four basic fluids: phlegm, blood, black bile, and yellow bile • If the balance is not right a person might be phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholy, or bilious Characters whose humors are out of balance, are eccentrics or... 34 TRAGIC, IRONIC, and SATIRICAL HUMOR (winter) • Tragedy is the opposite of comedy in that the happiness appears at the beginning or the middle Somebody is privileged, but with a fatal flaw (such as hubris or an obsession) which causes the downfall Well-known examples include The Great Gatsby, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet • Gothic Humor also fits into this dark side of... such books as Dracula, Frankenstein, The House of Usher, Northanger Abbey, The Langoliers, and Wuthering Heights 35 • People tend to create ironic humor when they feel that all is lost so there is nothing left to do but laugh at one’s own predicament The dark humor that became popular in the mid20th century was created in response to fears induced by the atomic bomb and feelings of helplessness • The... (summer) • In the classical sense, “comedy” isn’t necessarily funny, but in contrast to “tragedy” it has a happy ending • “High comedy (what we now call ‘smart comedy’ or ‘literary comedy’) relies for its humor on wit and sophistication, while low comedy relies on burlesque, crude jokes, and buffoonery.” • Jessica Milner Davies says that “whether it be English, medieval Dutch, Spanish, French, Viennese,... thumb through the pictures to document the change in mode 17 Spoiler Alert: 18 The Harry Potter Guide to the U.K : he-harry-potter-guide-to-the-u-k 19 THE VALUE OF HUMOR FOR THE FOUR DIFFERENT MODES ROMANCE (SPRING): Romances present idealized and exaggerated worlds with plots focusing around what Joseph Campbell called “The Journey.” •The journey does not have to
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