CFP: [American] Humor on the Cutting Edge_ALA

full name / name of organization: 
Sharon McCoy
contact email: 

Call for Papers: American Humor Studies Association panel for the American
Literature Association Conference, May 22-25, 2008, in San Francisco.

" 'For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread': Humor on the Cutting Edge"

Humor often walks a fine line between moral imperative and poor taste. How
soon after a tragic or shocking event is it permissible to make a pointed
joke, the kind of joke that makes us laugh and wince at the same time? How
does a humorist or stand-up comic negotiate this knife-edge, using humor to
force us to see the often hidden meanings behind an event, to force us to
face realities that we’d rather ignore? This intrepid moral force is what
Mark Twain argued elevated humor above the “mere” joke. Humor, he said in
his Autobiography, “must not professedly teach and it must not professedly
preach, but it must do both if it would live forever.” Topical yet
timeless, this sort of humor is, in Pope’s words, “never shock’d and never
turn’d aside”: it fearlessly tackles the issues, prejudices, horrors and
embarrassments of its day, daring to speak the unspeakable and connect it
to the very nature of our humanity.

Holding up a mirror to reveal a society’s flaws and foibles is a risky
business, and this panel seeks to explore the work of American comics or
humorists (from our past or our present) that thrives on this edge, poking
relentless fun at our most devastating and unspeakable moments and giving
them voice. Who are our edgiest humorists? How do they force us to face
ourselves, no matter how much we struggle, making us laugh and squirm
uncomfortably at the same time?

In comedy, timing is everything, and presentations should be kept strictly
to 20 minutes. If your presentation requires audiovisual equipment, please
include that information with your proposal. Inquiries are welcome.

Abstracts of about 250 words or complete papers should be sent to Sharon
McCoy at by January 21 for consideration.

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Received on Wed Nov 07 2007 - 10:23:51 EST