Editor’s Chair: Looking for New Contributing Editor and a Short-Term Poetry Editor(plus News & Conference CFPs from the AHSA!)
We here at Humor in America are looking to fill two posts: a Contributing Editor to write for us on a regular basis and a short-term Poetry Editor to write for 2-3 months. The Contributing Editor would write once every eight weeks on a topic of their choosing–some editors like having a topic (i.e. “music,” “poetry,” “comics,” etc.) and some prefer winging it on whatever subject seems topical to them (i.e. Brian Williams, Hal Holbrook, television shows, risky humor, or Charlie Hebdo…and here and here). In the short term, we are looking for someone to write two or three posts on poetry for the next few months while our poetry editor is on leave. Any humorous poetry is fine–from any period. The first post could go as early as Friday or Saturday, then once per month after that.
If you are interested in either of these, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
*In other humor studies news, the American Humor Studies Association has a new website design, as does their journal Studies in American Humor. I designed them both. Kudos will be accepted; critiques pondered.
*On those sites you will find exciting opportunities, such as the ability to purchase the newest special issue of Studies:“MAD MAGAZINE AND ITS LEGACIES” (click for Table of Contents). The cost is $20 for the issue, or a discount of $18 when you join the AHSA for this year.
*Speaking of special issues, on the journal page you will find a list of all past and upcoming special issues, including the call for papers for an upcoming issue:
Call for Papers: “Is American Satire Still in a Postmodern Condition?”
Special issue on contemporary satire for Studies in American Humor (Fall 2016), James E. Caron (University of Hawaii—Manoa), Guest Editor; Judith Yaross Lee (Ohio University, Editor).
In response to the torrent of satiric materials that has been and continues to be produced in recent years, Studies in American Humor invites proposals for 20-page essays using the rubric of “the postmodern condition” as an analytical gambit for demarcating a poetics of American comic art forms that use ridicule to enable critique and promote the possibility of social change. See link for more.
*Also upcoming are a number of conferences, including the ISHS 25th anniversary in Oakland, CA; MLA in Austin, TX; and SAMLA in Durham, NC. You should check out the announcement here.
*Another piece of exciting news is that the whole back run of Studies in American Humor is on Jstor. See all the Table of Contents and first pages here.
*If you have announcements from other societies or for CFPs or any other news, send them to Tracy Wuster at email@example.com
*And since the Emmys and Oscars snubbed Joan Rivers in their In Memoriam segments, here is a small tribute:
“Can I get to that heart? Can I get to that mind?”A tribute to the frank, contested humor of intense teachers—and to Henry Higgins
Nine years ago in my first class in graduate school, a course on approaches to teaching writing, we read George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion as a break from composition theory. I was thrilled, but I reigned in my enthusiasm when I noted that others in the class, including my professor who I respected immensely, felt apologetic about the book. Words like abusive and misogynistic were thrown casually around the seminar table, as they sometimes are in graduate seminars. Why was there this worry about the teacher in the story—about Henry Higgins? I was surprised that so many disliked his method because I had always thought of him as an effective teacher. My only real support for this inkling was that I found him . . . funny.
Did I have this wrong and, if so, what was the source of my misunderstanding? Or, if I was right that Henry Higgins was a funny and therefore benevolent man (I had collapsed the two conditions in my mind), what caused the confusion among others in my graduate school class? Why had everyone else failed to note his humor? And what did I see in his humor anyway? Could it be that I thought his humor lightened—or even completely neutralized—his seemingly harsh dealings with Eliza Doolittle? Or did we all have it wrong? Did a “correct” reading of the play really fall somewhere in the middle—was it really that Higgins was both funny and harsh? I began to doubt my first intuition about professor Higgins, as I seemed to be faced with a more complicated story.
The irony was that my own professor in this class, a good man with a fiery heart, who was, that very semester, dying of cancer (this would be his last seminar on teaching writing), was a gruff man himself. He and Henry Higgins shared a vocational intensity. In fact, like Henry Higgins, this professor had made it his life’s work to teach writing (or “speech”) to the underserved, hugely advancing the trend in what is now called “access” education at top universities. He was passionately focused on this until his last breaths—and he was passionately focused on us, his students; he read our final papers days before he died. Although we, his students, didn’t have a personal rapport with him—we would never have imagined going out for a beer with this man—our engagement with theories of speech and writing, particularly where low-income populations were concerned, kept him alert, stubborn, and justifiably cranky until the end.
American Humor Studies Association
Mark Twain Circle of America
Quadrennial Conference 2014
December 4-7, 2014
Four Points Sheraton French Quarter
The American Humor Studies Association, in conjunction with the Mark Twain Circle of America, sends out this general call for papers on American humor and Mark Twain. The topics below are suggestions for topics that we think will be of interest; other topics are welcome, and we welcome especially submissions of sessions of three papers or roundtables. The topics are broad in the hope that scholars will be able to find one that fits their current research. Submissions should be sent to Jan McIntire-Strasburg via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please send your submissions by May 15, 2014.
Those sending in submissions for the Mark Twain Circle of America can email their proposals to Ann Ryan at email@example.com.
Topics include but are not limited to:
Early American Humor and its European Roots
Nineteenth Century Humor—from Southwest to Northeast to Far West
20th Century Humor and the American Novel
Regional and/or transnational humor
New Media Approaches to Humor
Humor in film, television, comics, and other visual media
Humor and Theatre
Humor and Ethnicity
Humor and Gender
Humor and Class
Humor and Sexuality
Humor and War
Contemporary Approaches to Irony, Satire, Wit, and other topics
New Directions in American Humor Studies
Tracy Wuster, Vice President–American Humor Studies Association
The American Humor Studies Association has been active this past year working to promote humor studies as an academic field, and we are excited to share our work with you. Last year, we sponsored excellent panels at MLA and ALA. Many of our members presented on humor and Mark Twain at the 7th International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies, which featured an excellent keynote speech by Peter Kaminsky on the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. We also published two issues of Studies in American Humor in the last year, as well as our newsletter, “To Wit.” This year sees the transition from Ed Piacentino to Judith Yaross Lee as editor of the journal, with myself as book review editor. Look for an interview with Judith on “Humor in America” soon and an excerpt from her wonderful new book, Twain’s Brand.
The AHSA is excited for our upcoming work for the next year:
*First, the AHSA is very excited to announce the creation of the “Jack Rosenbalm Prize for American Humor.” Jack was the first managing editor, and then editor, of Studies in American Humor and a strong promoter of humor studies as a field. He was awarded the Charlie Award in 1993.
Awarded tor the best article on American humor by a pre-tenure scholar, graduate student, adjunct professor, or independent scholar published in (or accepted for publication in) a peer-reviewed academic journal. Articles published in 2013 are eligible for the inaugural award. Please submit by 12/15/2013 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
See link above for more information.
*The AHSA is working on Calls for Papers for three conferences next year–ALA, MLA, and our Quadrennial conference, which will be in New Orleans in December 2014. Look for the CFP for that and for MLA soon. The ALA call is looking for abstracts in the following topics:
1. “Political Humor from Franklin to Colbert”
2. “Teaching American Humor” (A Roundtable)
3. “Graphic Humor in American Periodicals” (Co-Sponsored with the Research Society for American Periodicals)
See our announcements page for more information.
*The AHSA is also co-sponsoring a Works in Progress symposium with the Mark Twain Circle of America in February. This working conference is intended to advance publication of work on American Humor, Mark Twain, and related work in progress. Individuals papers and group symposia will be offered relating to work in progress which will be presented by participants and discussed and developed with the help of attending scholars.
Where: The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (http://www.redlioninn.com/)
When: Thursday-Saturday February 20-22
Information at the announcements page above.
* Call for Papers: MAD Magazine and Its Legacies Special issue of Studies in American Humor, Fall 2014
Since 1952, MAD Magazine has regaled humor lovers and inspired humor producers in many media. Studies in American Humor, the journal of the American Humor Studies Association, invites submission of scholarly papers devoted to MAD Magazine and its legacies for a special issue of the journal appearing in the fall of 2014, coedited by John Bird (Winthrop University) and Judith Yaross Lee (Ohio University).
Topics might include, but are not limited to: *humor, verbal and/or visual *subversive humor *satire (as technique, analysis of individual examples or themes, etc.) *parody (as technique, analysis of individual examples or themes, etc.) *individual artists and writers *regular and occasional features *one or mode recurrent themes (politics, technology, parenthood, suburbia) *cultural impact and legacies *influence, general and specific (including direct influence on individuals and genres) *reception
Potential contributors should send queries and abstracts (500-750 words) by October 1, 2013 or complete manuscripts by June 1, 2014. Email queries and abstracts to email@example.com. General information on Studies in American Humor and submission guidelines are available athttp://studiesinamericanhumor.org/.
*You can join the American Humor Studies Association by mail or electronically. Information on joining can be found on our website. The AHSA website contains a section for syllabus, assignments, and information on teaching American humor. We welcome any additions to this resources. “Humor in America” will be running a piece on using podcasts to teach dialect humor, prepared by our Executive Director–Jan McIntire Strasburg–in the next few weeks. Please contact me–Tracy Wuster (firstname.lastname@example.org)–if you have humor pedagogy resources you would like to share.
*Finally, the AHSA is excited to announce that Studies in American Humor will soon be included in JStor in its full run from 1976 through our recent issues. JSTor is kindly scanning past issues and hopes to include the journal in its next update. Keep an eye out.
Editors of Humor in America
As many of us prep our syllabi and get ready to head back to school, some of our readers will be so lucky as to get to teach humor to their students–either in a specifically focused class or in a more general context. One of the founding goals of this website was the importance of the pedagogical discussion of humor. Amy Wright, Laura Hernandez-Ehrisman, and Tracy Wuster discussed some of these issues in An Educated Sense of Humor.
Our writers have taken on a number of topics related to teaching humor. Sharon McCoy and Tracy Wuster have both taken up E.B. White’s famous saying about humor and dissecting a frog (here, here, and here). Jeff Melton and Sharon McCoy have written on teaching satire:
Jeff has also started a series about teaching humor:
To which we could add Sharon McCoy’s pieces:
Other pieces on the site aren’t specifically focused on pedagogy, but they do touch on related questions. Tom Inge’s Politics and the American Sense of Humor launched the website just over 2 years (and 185k views) ago. Michael Kiskis’s The Critics Dream Mark Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn also helped launch our site. Both pieces offer insight into the cultural roles of American humor, and both have proved to be popular over the course of the site’s life.
In perusing the list of pieces on the site over these last two years, there are too many strong discussions of humor to list here. Pieces of interest in relation to teaching humor might be:
The Muppets: An Exercise in Humorous Metacinematic Irony by Michael Purgason
REMEMBERING DICK GREGORY by Sam Sackett
Humor, Irony and Modern Native American Poetry by Caroline Sposto
The Funny Thing about Cancer by Sharon McCoy
Parody: A Lesson by Don and Alleen Nilsen
The Onion and How Comedy Deals with Tragedy (Or Not) by Matthew Daube
Meta-Racist Airplane Jokes: The Foolish Audience and Didactic Humor by Philip Scepanski
Mojo Medicine: Humor, Healing and the Blues by Matt Powell
The Pitfalls of Activist Humor by Bonnie Applebeet
In the Archives: Mr. Dooley in Peace and War, “On the Indian War” by Luke Deitrich
And so many others… if you wish to write something about humor and learnin’, please write the editor. We’d love to have more.
Hello readers. Two calls for papers out now for Humor Studies–one from the AHSA and one from the Humor Studies Caucus of the American Studies Association. See the Announcements page for a few more CFPs, as well. Please remember to send me any announcements, CFPs, etc. to post here and on the AHSA site.
The Humor Studies Caucus of the American Studies Association is seeking papers for the 2012 ASA Conference:
American Studies Association Annual Meeting:
“Beyond the Logic of Debt, Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent,”
November 21-24, 2013: Hilton Washington, DC
Proposals on any aspect of American Humor will be welcome, including, but not limited to:
Stand-Up Comedy Jokes Wit Merriment
Literary Humor (both high- and low-brow) Richard Pryor
Film Satire Will Rogers
Comedy Jokes Risibility Sitcoms
Mark Twain Dirty Jokes Lenny Bruce
Ventriloquism the Circus Marietta Holley
subtle humor broad humor
Margaret Cho regional humor
transnational humor ethnic humor
and even puns…
Proposals due by: January 11th
Panels will be assembled for submission by the January 26 deadline.
Proposals should be no more than 500 words and should include a brief CV (1 page). Please include current ASA membership status.
Proposals (and questions) should be sent to Tracy Wuster and Jennifer Hughes: email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org
American Humor Studies Association
American Literature Association
2013 National Convention
Boston, Westin Copley Hotel, May 26-29.
The AHSA plans to sponsor two sessions at the 2013 national meeting. We seek cogent, provocative, well-researched papers on the following subjects:
1. “Humor in Periodicals: From Punch to Mad”—Abstracts (300 words max.) are encouraged on the role of humorous literature in American periodicals from the early national period to the present. Subject adaptable to both humorous periodicals and humor in serious periodicals across a wide time range; thus, title will change to reflect composition of panel.
2. “Reading Humorous Texts”–Abstracts (300 words max.) are encouraged on the interpretation, recovery, or pedagogy of humorous texts from novels and poems to plays and stand-up. Some focus on the act of interpretation of humor in its historical, performative, formal, or other cultural context is encouraged.
Please e-mail abstracts no later than January 15, 2013 to Tracy Wuster (email@example.com) with the subject line: “AHSA session, 2013 ALA.” Notifications will go out no later than January 20, 2013.
Our friend and contributor sent along this announcement:
Persons interested in American humor may have a free and uncopyrighted copy of Scalawag, my biography of John N. Reynolds in Microsoft Word, e-mailed to them as an attachment by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is not totally funny, but there are several chuckles here and there, and one or two outright laughs. Included are an amusing folk limerick and two examples of the prose of Walt Mason, one of the great but forgotten American humorists.I ran across Reynolds while working on my book on E.W. Howe. After completing the Howe book, I gathered as much material as possible and wrote an account of his life, making it both as factual and as entertaining as I could. Reynolds has no real importance, but I thought the general public would enjoy reading about him. I tried to get book publishers to agree with me, but without success. And I really didn’t have enough for a book anyway (76 pages). So I am giving it away.Who was John N. Reynolds? He was a hard-working college student, a self-ordained minister, a pioneer schoolmaster of brilliant success, a Sunday school superintendent, a newspaper editor, a music storekeeper, a sewing machine agent, a baker, a rogue, an inventor, a penitentiary inmate, a public speaker, a land salesman, a farmer, a candidate for public office, a banker, an itinerant evangelist, an insurance executive, a student of shorthand, an author, a book salesman, and a maniac — in approximately that order, but some of them more than once and some of them simultaneously. He was also — and in this he was quintessentially human — an enigma.You can read Scalawag on your computer or print it out. It’s free. And if you don’t like it, I’ll gladly refund every penny you paid for it.Sam Sackett
Laura Hernandez-Ehrisman, Assistant Professor, St. Edward’s UniversityAmy Nathan
Wright, Assistant Professor, St. Edward’s University
Tracy Wuster, Adjunct Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally written for the newsletter of the Association of General and Liberal Studies, but the newsletter was discontinued. Amy and Laura agreed that we could publish it here.
“…liberal learning—the development of knowledge, skills, values, and habits of mind characteristic of an educated person.” –AGLS Mission Statement
Whether humor is used as a strategy for teaching or as content in a general education course, one major goal of a liberal education should be the development of our students’ senses of humor—the skills and habits of mind to interpret and use humor well.
The cliché with humor is that if you have to explain a joke, then it ceases to be funny. The implication is that we, as educators, don’t really need to teach humor, since students either get it or they don’t, and that by explaining humor, we take the fun out of it.
This is true, insofar as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Humor cannot be translated into a non-funny statement of fact or analysis, which is the meaning most people mean when warning against explaining humor. But instances of humor can be contextualized, historicized, and interpreted in ways that can deepen students’ understanding of key subjects, of other people’s points of view, and of a society in which humor has long been a central means of communicating and contesting societal visions and values.
Humor is especially useful in general education classes to introduce, explore, and deepen the understanding of difficult subjects, such as race and gender, for a diverse population of students. In these cases, teachers must help students come to a rich and nuanced understanding of humor, or its can end up accomplishing the opposite of one’s intentions—it can reinforce stereotypes and divide people.
How do we help students distinguish between racial humor and racist humor? How do we help students distinguish between gender-based humor and sexist humor? How do we get students to take race and gender seriously? How do we use humor in the classroom, whether telling the jokes ourselves or providing comedic examples, while engaging students’ critical thinking skills so they get the joke?
Editor’s note: Remember to check out the “Announcements” section above for updated CFP and other news of note.
I have been out of town a lot recently, so please excuse any irregular timing of posts. But now I am back, gainfully employed, and ready for you to submit a post to publish here on “Humor in America.” On what subject, you ask? Well, if you would read the “Write for Us” section, you would find this:
Humor in America” is a blog dedicated to the discussion of humor and humor studies in America. Contributors are welcome to submit on any aspect of American Humor, broadly considered, although submissions are not guaranteed to be published.
We are interested in short articles (300-3000 words) focused on (but not limited to) the following areas:
*pedagogy of humor, including syllabi
*theory of humor
*recovery of sources/authors
*interviews with comedians, humor scholars, or other figures
*focused musings, thoughts, or polemics
*responses to humor in popular culture, academic research, or any other venue that seems fertile
*movies/book reviews (apart from recent scholarly works)
But the main answer is, we are looking for good writing on humor. If you have something you are thinking about, email me (Tracy) at email@example.com.
***Join us on Twitter: @HumorInAmerica. We post all our new posts along with important articles and thoughts on humor and humor studies.
In other news in the world of Humor Studies:
***The American Humor Studies Association has a new website. Soon, the name of the website will be “americanhumor.org,” but that switch has not taken place yet. The site includes history, membership information, links to past conference panels, and other information. If you have any comments, suggestions, additions, or concerns, please email the webmaster: Tracy Wuster (firstname.lastname@example.org).
***The AHSA web platform also includes a new site for “Studies in American Humor”: studiesinamericanhumor.org. The website includes Table of Contents for Series 3 of the journal, from 1994-Present. If you have TOC’s from Series 1 or 2 that you could send us as a text file or pdf, we would greatly appreciate it. The AHSA also has a Facebook page.
***Speaking of Mark Twain, the Mark Twain Project is hiring.
***The Center for Mark Twain Studies has sent out information on next summer’s conference. I know that many who attended the previous conference would testify that it was the best conference ever. See our post on Hal Holbrook for video/audio of Mr. Holbrook telling stories on the site of Mark Twain’s study. Here is the announcement:
We are just a year away from Elmira 2013: The Seventh International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies. The Call for Papers has been posted on the web. Google Elmira 2013 Call for Papers for information about submitting a Developed Abstract of 700 words — due Monday, February 4th, 2013. Final papers must be suitable for a 20-minute presentation. Please send your attached abstract, via electronic submission, to email@example.com. Provide your name, mailing address, and email address. Developed abstracts will be reviewed anonymously for acceptance by selected panel chairs.
We look forward to greeting you in Elmira on August 1 through 4, 2013.
***For more CFPs, please see our announcement section, or the conference announcement page of the AHSA webpage. And since I am in charge of both, you can send me announcements and take care of both places.
Hello all. Do you teach classes on humor or related topics?
One of our goals here at “Humor in America” is the discussion of humor studies pedagogy. Such as:
Teaching American Sitcoms: Ode to The Beverly Hillbillies by Jeff Melton
Teaching the Irony of Satire (Ironically) by Jeff Melton
Today, our goal is to extend this conversation by politely request that any and all of you who teach, or have taught, humor studies courses (broadly defined) submit them to us to post here (as well as on the website of the American Humor Studies Association, with your permission of course). The plan is to create a single post with a number of links to various syllabi as a resource for teachers and scholars. You can send it as a word doc or pdf.
So, please send us your syllabi for courses on humor, Mark Twain, comics, Kurt Vonnegut, etc. etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org …. Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you. Tracy, editor.