2018 - 2019

  Jewish Humor: Literature, Film and Social Critique                                                   
Hannah Pollin GalayGilman-humanities3201400-1800 Sem  2
University credit hours:  4.0

Course description

Is there such a thing as ‘Jewish humor’? If so, what are the historical conditions that have shaped it? How is this humor expressed in literature, theatre and film? Course readings will include works by Philip Roth, Isaac Babel, Franz Kafka, Sholem Aleichem, Itsik Manger, Efraim Kishon and Hanoch Levin; Folkloric humor in the Jocha stories from the Jewish communities of the Muslim world and Chelm tales from Eastern Europe. We will compare textual humor to the physical humor that is possible on stage and on the screen by researching Jewish Vaudeville, films by the Marx Brothers, acts by Sarah Silverman, ha-Gashash ha-Hiver and ha-Hamishia ha-Kamerit.

In our discussions, we will explore the connection between humor and social critique, looking at the capacity of minority groups (like Jews) to gaze at the majority culture through a surprising, satirical and even funny lens. We will also discuss the universal aspects of humor with help from the theories of Sigmund Freud and Henri Bergson.

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