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Grant number: AQ-248231-16

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Emerson College (Boston, MA 02116-4624)
Kenneth Feil (Project Director: September 2015 to present)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on Comedy

The development and teaching of a new upper-level undergraduate course to explore the social, political, and cultural impact of comedy.

Popular culture has historically flourished by uniting audiences in a shared sense of pleasure, and perhaps no genre has performed this task better than comedy. Critics and theorists draw different conclusions, however, about this function of comedy: as normative and exclusionary; or, as subversive and empowering, especially for marginalized groups. When comedy unites certain groups, what is the impact on audiences’ perceptions of identity, diversity, and social norms? Does comedy inherently exploit otherness to forge social solidarity among select groups? How does comedy unite and divide, and what are the values as well as deficits of such outcomes? These queries, generated by debates since antiquity, motivate this course and its exploration of comedy across history and media, in novels and comic strips, painting and sculpture, as well as in film, television, theater, and new media.

Project fields:
History, Criticism, and Theory of the Arts

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$20,000 (approved)
$20,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2016 – 8/31/2017