Seminar (admission by application) Our age of instant communication and intense global anxiety--about weapons, about technology, about the environment, about economics--has been a rich time for funny writing. Writers and artists like Gary Shteyngart, Sam Lipsyte, Nora Ephron, R. Crum, Gail Collins, David Sedaris, and Art Spiegelman, and publications like the Onion and Whim Quarterly, along with the Comedy Channel--are all flourishing for a reason. We're on edge, and one of the ways of easing anxiety, and examining its causes, is laughter, as when Mark Twain addressed racism, Joseph Heller dramatized the insanity of war, and Charlie Chaplin offered some comic relief during the Depression. In fact, comic and satirical writing has always shone a light into the dark corners of human nature and behavior, and sometimes even changed it. Think Jonathan Swift.
This course will be a combination of workshop and study. I hope that those who take the course will be able to use its ideas and techniques in generally serious writing, in conversation, and as helpful ways of looking at life. We'll be reading and writing short, funny pieces, including passages from such classic works as Lucky Jim,Catch-22, Huckleberry Finn, The Canterbury Tales, and so on. The New Yorker's humor collection Fierce Pajamas, will be the central text, and we'll concentrate on the methods writers have used to try to make people laugh at the written word--matters of timing, timeliness, dialogue, surprise, sustaining and expanding a funny idea, and "exploding" a premise near the end of a piece.
Students will be asked to write two additional comic works.
Admission to this class will be based partly on a 500-600-word parody of this course description.