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123425 SE 'Fast Track' Literary & Cultural Studies Seminar / American / North American Lit. / Studies (2019W)

American Humor

11.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work



max. 18 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

This is a block seminar, so the schedule is a bit unusual. Please don’t register if that schedule does not work for you:

We will meet (A) once by the end of June to discuss preliminaries and the syllabus. This meeting will be followed by a reading-intensive summer. Most of the course sessions (B) will take place on 4 days in late September/early October. There will be a final seminar paper troubleshooting session (C) in November. Final papers are due November 30.

Wednesday 26.06. 11:30 - 13:30 Besprechungsraum Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-O2-07
Wednesday 25.09. 10:00 - 16:00 Raum 2 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-09
Thursday 26.09. 10:00 - 16:00 Raum 2 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-09
Wednesday 02.10. 10:00 - 16:00 Raum 2 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-09
Thursday 03.10. 10:00 - 16:00 Raum 2 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-09
Monday 11.11. 18:00 - 20:00 Besprechungsraum Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-O2-07


Aims, contents and method of the course

This class explores expressions of “American” humor from the 18th century to the present day. We will first ask ourselves what makes a cultural text funny, and how we can make sense of humorous forms and situations, as well as our cultural desire for such forms and situations, theoretically and conceptually. We will then look at a select number of cultural texts (including literature, (audio)visual media, and performance) and explore the ways in which humor is used in order to intervene in complex cultural struggles over meaning. In particular, we will look at how humor negotiates questions of national “American” identity; local, regional, and transnational differences; the politics of gender and sexuality; racial and ethnic difference; or of dis/ability and age. We will also explore how humor encourages or discourages access to various political public spheres.

As this is a seminar, much of the course content will depend on the primary texts students eventually want to work with. The first half of the course will be dedicated to general questions concerning literary and cultural theory and method; the second half of the course will be devoted to students’ individual research projects.

Students should be familiar with the cultural history of the United States before the first session. For preparation, any American cultural history will do; for an easy read, I recommend Paul S. Boyer et al., The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People (multiple editions).

Assessment and permitted materials

Regular attendance (max. 2 absences—a typical block day consists of 3 units, so it is not possible to miss an entire day), active participation in class, expert session, paper proposal and annotated bibliography, seminar paper

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Active class participation (10%)
Expert session (15%)
Paper proposal and annotated bibliography (15%)
Seminar paper (60%)

You need to complete all requirements to complete the course. The overall grading scheme is (1): 100-91%, (2): 90-81%, (3): 80-71%, (4): 70-61%, (5): 60-0%

Examination topics


Reading list

Will be announced in the first session before the summer (June 26)

Association in the course directory

Studium: UF 344, BA 612, MA 844;
Code/Modul: UF 4.2.4-322, BA09.2, 10.2, MA5, MA6, MA7;
Lehrinhalt: 12-0406

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:20