Directed Reading Proposal - Philosophy at UNC Charlotte

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With Dr. Gay I would like to study deeper how humor is used to spur hate and how ... Simon Critchley probes some of the most perennial features of humor, such ...


Proposal for Directed Readings/Research For Applied Ethics Graduate Certificate.

Director: Dr. Gay

I would like to study modern linguistic attempts at using humor to desensitize hate, stereotypes, and other feelings about one's race, religion, ethnicity etc. With Dr. Gay I would like to study deeper how humor is used to spur hate and how it is also used to counteract hate.

Dr. Gay has agreed to work with me on Directed Reading/Research, which is the last class I need for my Graduate Certificate. We will be meeting once a week to discuss my readings, and I will produce a 15-20 page paper about the linguistic usage of humor in desensitizing racial stereotypes.

A joke about a certain race or religion is an easier pill to swallow if the person telling it is of that race or religion.

Some well known comedians who have used humor in these ways include: Lenny Bruce Chris Rock Eddie Murphy Jerry Seinfeld Larry David

But what happens when someone like the French comedian Dieudonné makes a joke about Jewish people? He's black and a stern Anti Semite; so, when he makes anti-semitic jokes on a public stage, he ends up in front of a Judge, and it has happened six times.

Readings list:

Philosophical Theory

The various writings of Dr. Gay on linguistic violence, linguistic alienation, and linguistic nonviolence

Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters by Ted Cohen, University Of Chicago Press; New Ed edition (May 1, 2001)

On Humour (Thinking in Action) by Simon Critchley, Routledge; 1 edition (July 2002)

Book Description from Amazon. On Humour is a fascinating and beautifully written book on what philosophy can tell us about humor and about what it is to be human. Simon Critchley probes some of the most perennial features of humor, such as our tendency to laugh at animals and our bodies, why we mock death with comedy and why we think it's funny when people start to act like machines. He also looks as the darker side of humor, as when rife with sexism and racism, and shows how humor might remind us of people we would rather not be. Above all, Simon Critchley argues that humor can tell us much about the human condition, the meaning of life and why comedy itself begins in philosophy. About the Author Simon Critchley is professor of philosophy and Director for the Centre of Theoretical Studies at Essex University. He edited the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy (1998) and is author of Very Little.Almost Nothing (Routledge 1997).

Engaging Humor, by Elliott Oring, University of Illinois Press (March 2003)

Semantic Mechanisms of Humor (Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy) by Victor Raskin, Publisher: Springer; 1 edition (January 1, 2001)

Nigger - The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy

From Publishers Weekly

The word is paradigmatically ugly, racist and inflammatory. But is it different when Ice Cube uses it in a song than when, during the O.J. Simpson trial, Mark Fuhrman was accused of saying it? What about when Lenny Bruce uses it to “defang: it by sheer repetition? Or when Mark Twain uses it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to make an antiracist statement?

Gravity Fails: The Comic Jewish Shaping of Modern America by James D. Bloom “Prejudice in Jest: When Racial and Gender Humor Harms” By David Benatar.  Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 2 (April 1999) pp. 191-203. Humor as a Technique in Race Conflict. John H. Burma. American Sociological Review, Vol. 11, No. 6, 710-715. Dec., 1946 http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003- 1224(194612)11%3A6%3C710%3AHAATIR%3E2.0.CO%3B2-I

"Just Joking: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Humor."  By Berys Gaut. Philosophy and Literature, Vol. 22, No. 1 (April 1998) pp. 51-68.

The Denial of Racism: The Role of Humor, Personal Experience, and Self- Censorship B Barnes, I Palmary, K Durrheim - Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 2001 http://jls.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/20/3/321

Humor in Negro and White Subcultures: A Study of Jokes Among University Students R Middleton, J Moland - American Sociological Review, 1959

I will also Philosopher’s Index over the last several years for articles on humor and will obtain and read copies of all that seem relevant to my project.

I plan to spend my Winter break reviewing two of the most relevant (to my topic) theories on humor from several classic philosophers, for example: Kant and Schopenhauer both write about, the incongruity theory of humor, as well as the Superiority theory of Thomas Hobbes.

In late March I will submit an abstract/outline of the paper I am preparing for critique by Dr. Gay.

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