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University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA 90024-4201)
Otto Santa Ana (Project Director: September 2012 to July 2015)
NEH Enduring Questions Course on "What Is the Nature of Human Laughter and Humor?"

The development of a cross-listed undergraduate course on the nature of human laughter and humor.

IS THE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF LAUGHTER MALEVOLENT OR BENEVOLENT? This EQ might surprise you, since today it's commonplace to believe that "laughter is the best medicine." But the eminent thinkers of the Western tradition have not always been so sanguine. Hobbes and Bergson did not think laughter was benign. For dissimilar reasons Locke and Bahktin disputed this. The EQ encapsulates topics that scientists now urgently study. The course will deepen students' understanding of human nature by applying humanist insights to a contemporary phenomenon. It makes manifest the importance of asking EQs. Students consume comedy, but are only dimly aware that their amusement has political effects--due to laughter's nature. Moreover, they may not realize that media conglomerates sell their laughter as a commodity. The humanist tradition equips them to better reflect on these weighty implications of laughter. And they'll learn that when scientists dismiss humanist considerations, their science suffers.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Education Programs

$24,964 (approved)
$20,896 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2013 – 6/30/2015