Film Comedy and the Limits of Representation -- SCMS: Boston, March 21-25, 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Maggie Hennefeld / Brown University

This panel seeks to explore a diverse range of questions, contexts, and ideas about the relationship between film and comedy in order to provide new approaches to problems of representation in cinema. Work on film comedy has explored the capacity for humor to represent the unrepresentable: from sexual innuendo in classic screwball comedies, to political satire in documentary filmmaking, to silent slapstick's provocative reimaginations of modernity. How does looking closely at comedy help us understand cinema's capacity to represent time and space? What are the limits and potentials of comedic interventions in social politics (e.g. slapstick portrayals of domestic politics or of war and state violence)? What topics or events have been considered taboo for comedic depiction and how do these examples help us grapple with the thematic of the image's unrepresentability in cinema? What are the geopolitics of film comedy? For example, how do recent examples of trans-cultural humor inform the way we think about the national- or medium-specificity of cinema? How do theories of humor (jokes, laughter, the carnivalesque, parody) grapple with the impact of cinema on the history and politics of modernity? This panel invites papers that investigate the profound interrelationship between comedy and film form across a variety of historical and geographical contexts. Please send a 300-word proposal and short bio to Maggie Hennefeld at by August 8.