The Comparative Literature Graduate Student Conference, with a topic of “On the Joke and the Joker,” will be held on April 1 and 2, 2016 with a Keynote address by Professor Ron Jenkins from Wesleyan University.
Graduate Student Conference 2016
Department of Comparative Literature
April 1 – 2, 2016
“…thanks to their façade, [jokes] are in a position to conceal not only what they have to say but also the fact that they have something—forbidden—to say.” – Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious
What can be said in jest that cannot be said outright? Who can participate in this alternative form of address, and how? The joke always lies on the border between permitted and forbidden language, testing its boundaries through the disruption of meaning. Similarly, the figure of the joker can be found throughout literary history, participating in the conventions of social practice while challenging or subverting such practices from within.
Always on the margins of society, law and language, the joker and the joke both demarcate their limits, and reveal their inner contingencies. From the carnivalesque and the kingly court, to the modern comedy show, the joker emerges in these culturally and historically specific sites masked under the guise of pure entertainment. Nonetheless, in such practices, the joker renders the conventional monstrous through mimicry and forces it to confront its fragility. Likewise, the joke emerges as an incongruity in language, operating within and relying on a given context to establish its meaning. Ephemeral, at times oral, the joke often eludes hermeneutical closure. In raising multiple theoretical questions that touch upon a variety of disciplines, the joke and the joker as distinct but symbiotic objects of study open up new comparative approaches and modes of reading. Critical interpretation finds its double in the joke as that which resists interpretation even while playfully inviting it.
Lines of inquiry may include but are not limited to:
● Figures of the Joker in Literature
● Affect Theory
● Psychoanalytic Theories of Language
● Constructed Languages
● Politics of Humor
● Hermeneutical Approaches to the Joke
● Jokes and Genre
● Jokes and Translation
● Fools and Tricksters in History
● Temporality and Ephemerality
Conference Flyer [PDF]