LING-724 Sem: Humor and Social Control
Spring for 2010-2011
Santa Ana, Otto
I offer an exploratory seminar on one language practice that constructs discriminatory social hierarchies: humor. Joking creates perlocutionary settings in which we actually witness kinesthetic evidence of signification, namely the construction of in- and out-groups. I plan to first explore the perlocutionary aspects of humor in small groups, and then when jokes are amplified by mass media. I take my cue from Michael Billig, who claims that humor —specifically ridicule— is a disciplinary means to uphold norms of conduct and conventions. Billig builds no linguistic model, so I will likely begin with the work of Paul Simpson, who studies satire as a discursive practice. But Simpson's model is overly elaborate for our purposes, because he tries to capture the vagaries of literary satire. I would rather employ his principles to motivate a general verbal humor framework.
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