Call for essay proposals on teaching comic texts

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Bev Hogue/MLA
contact email: 

When comedy dominates popular culture so thoroughly that it’s difficult to distinguish spoofs from truths, when identities and relationships form and fumble on a foundation of comic memes, and when the powerful and the powerless wield comedy alternately as weapon or shield, it’s time for the academy to take comedy seriously. Teaching Comic Texts, edited by Bev Hogue, will examine how comic texts of many types can be deployed in classrooms, either as a topic of literary or cultural study or as a window into understanding other fields. In addition to exploring historical and theoretical contexts, essays in the volume will provide practical insights for teaching comic texts in a variety of disciplines. As part of the MLA’s Options for Teaching series, the volume will appeal to beginning or experienced teachers in undergraduate and graduate programs in literature and language, rhetoric and composition, culture studies, media studies, communication, philosophy, creative writing, and other disciplines where comic texts might prove useful. 

A field that ranges from Aristophanes to The Onion by way of Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin, and The Simpsons offers a wide range of areas for inquiry open to a variety of methodologies. Comic texts may illuminate moments in history or the lives of others, offer models for rhetorical methods, challenge students to practice critical thinking skills, examine aspects of the human condition, and more. Students studying comedy might engage with plays, novels, and poetry alongside films, memes, and live stand-up performances, and they need a wide range of tools and activities to equip them to exist in a comedy-heavy media environment. Essays describing specific methods that can be adapted across disciplines are especially welcome, and the volume will conclude with a collection of lesson plans, assignments, and other practical resources.

Topics include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Strategies for contextualizing comedy

    1. Historical contexts for teaching comic texts

    2. Theoretical approaches to teaching comic texts

    3. Methods for teaching conventions of various genres and media (plays, novels, poetry, television, film, stand-up, social media, etc.)

    4. When the joke is out of date: explaining the context without killing the joke

  1. Strategies for teaching comedy’s role in cultures, including

    1. Comedy in identity formation

    2. Comedy as glue connecting social groups

    3. Comedy as a tool toward understanding the Other

    4. Comedy that excludes: dealing with offensive comedy, inside or outside the classroom

    5. Too soon? Comedy after tragedy, trauma, violence

    6. Comedy as healer (“laughter is the best medicine”)

    7. Comedy as persuader (political comedy, subversive comedy, etc.)

  1. Strategies for deploying comic texts, including

    1. Comic texts in the first-year seminar

    2. Critical thinking through comedy

    3. Information literacy and comedy

    4. Teaching writing with or of comic texts

    5. Teaching literary analysis through comedy

    6. Teaching philosophy or ethics through comedy

    7. Teaching gender, race, or diversity through comedy

    8. Teaching other specific fields through comedy (history, anthropology, social sciences, sciences, etc.)

  1. Resources

    1. Designing a curriculum that takes comedy seriously

    2. Sample lesson plans and assignments

    3. Books, links, and other resources for further study

If you are interested in contributing an essay of 3,000 words, submit an abstract of approximately 500 words describing an approach or topic and explaining its potential benefit for students and instructors. If you plan to quote from student writing in your essay, you must obtain written permission from your students. A submitted essay should not have been previously published. Further guidelines for MLA’s Options for Teaching series can be found at www.mla.org/pub_guidelines_oft.

To submit, send a 500-word abstract and CV to the volume editor no later than 1 March 2019.  Abstracts will be posted on MLA Commons for further comment and discussion, with the goal of finalizing the selection of essays by 1 September 2019. Potential contributors are encouraged to visit the volume’s Commons site early in the process as they develop their ideas. Send e-mail submissions to Bev Hogue (hogueb@marietta.edu), using the subject line “Options for Teaching Comic Texts.”