Doctoral seminar

Doctoral seminar

Doctoral seminar “Humour 101”

Date: June 25, 2018
Capacity: up to 80 participants (20 participants x 4 workshops)

The seminar targets participants who have had little previous exposure to humor studies and who would like to take part in the ISHS conference and perhaps engage in humor research in the future. It will comprise a keynote lecture and workshops held by five prominent humour scholars that are scheduled to take place between 9AM and 5:30 PM, on Monday June 25, 2018.

Find updated schedules and suggested readings under each workshop’s description.

Outline of the workshops

Humour in narratives – from the word to the text and back

Wladyslaw Chlopicki (Jagiellonian University)

In this workshop it is planned to present a brief historical overview of approaches to the analysis of humorous texts– from jokes to longer humorous texts, focusing on the latter. The central issue to be addressed then is the choice of linguistic approach to analysing humorous lines and text-specific frames of characters, events, places or objects. Stylistics of humorous texts will be addressed too as the lexical choices are a typical way writers introduce humorous lines into narrative stories. Following the discussion of humorous lines and textual frames a discussion of classification of humorous plots will follow and in this part participants will be encouraged to bring examples of humorous plots from their own cultures in order to discuss their compatibility with the classifications proposed so far. Such examples may be made available beforehand to the lecturer to facilitate workshop organization.

Here is a more detailed plan of the workshop.

Experiencing Humour: A Conceptual Model of an Interpersonal Transaction

Jessica Milner Davis (University of Sydney) and Jennifer Hofmann (University of Zurich)

When any instance of humour is created, that is done by a humourist selecting and combining a number of variables in structure, medium and content and exposing it to an audience. Alternatively, a combination may present itself by happenstance and then be perceived as humour. There are three groups of so-called classical theories of what makes up humour (or what is funny): these are: superiority; festive rule-breaking; and mechanical patterning. Incongruity (often considered a ‘theory’ on its own) in fact underlies all three. These three theories inform a schema of how ‘humour potential’ translates into ‘humour product’ (whether intentionally or accidentally) adopting varying formats and using various modalities. This is Step 1 of the model. The product’s reception by its audience will depend on a number of personological and environmental factors and forms Step 2. Step 3 is the phase that considers the impact, both in the short and longer term, of experiencing the humour product. Combined, these factors and stages can be graphed to represent what might be called ‘the humour transaction’. This conceptual approach does not pretend to explain WHY humour is humorous, but t may assist humour researchers to clarify the focal point/s of their selected studies. In the workshop, we may well discuss: How useful is such a conceptual approach to humour research? Does it raise more questions than answers?

Here is a more detailed plan of the workshop.

Social Psychology of Humour in Intergroup Settings: Applications to Political Humour


Tom Ford (Western Carolina University)
In this workshop, I will discuss current theory and social psychological research on the social consequences of humour in intergroup settings, focusing on primarily on disparagement humour. Students will then use relevant theory and empirical findings as a framework for thinking about the social consequences of political humour—disparagement humour or ridicule directed at politicians. I will lead students in formulating new hypotheses derived from theory and past research, and in designing new studies to test their hypotheses.

In preparation for the workshop, read the article by Graham, Haidt & Nosek 2009.

Humour and Social Boundaries: Studying Humour From a Social Science Perspective

Giselinde Kuipers (University of Amsterdam)

This tutorial has a dual aim. First, it gives an overview of social scientific approaches to the study of humour, through the notion of social boundaries. All social life is organized around boundary-drawing and social categorization: distinguishing the good from the bad, the funny from the boring, the moral from the immoral, the humorous from the non-humorous. Such categorizations are applied to people as well as things or utterances. Humour and laughter are among the strongest markers of social boundaries: those who laugh together feel connected, if only for a fleeing moment; whereas those who do not join in the laughter easily feel excluded or alienated. Drawing on theories and empirical studies from anthropology and sociology as well as political science and media and communication studies, we will investigate and discuss how humour draws social boundaries, and what the social consequences of such boundary drawing may be.

Second, this tutorial aims to develop empirical research skills. Participants will be presented with a range of empirical case studies (by the lecturer, as well as other humour scholars) and hands-on research exercises. Thus, they will be stimulated to translate both everyday observations and abstract theoretical notions into theoretically informed research questions, which can then be answered through systematic empirical research. Hopefully, we will be able to profit from the diverse backgrounds of participants in this tutorial in discussing humour tastes, humour scandals, and humorous genres and inside knowledge. Participants are kindly invited to bring along interesting cases, observations and examples for analysis(pictures, cartoons, clips, texts, emails etc) and think about the following questions

  1. Do you know someone personally who, in your view, has an excellent sense of humor? How would you describe this person’s sense of humor?
  2. Can you think of a recent “humor scandal” (see the attached paper) in your country?
  3. Can you think of an example of humor that you enjoy, but that you do not expect many of the participants of this workshop to understand or appreciate (for instance, because it is contains many specific cultural references, because you expect people to find it offensive, or some other reason).

In preparation for the workshop, read the articles by Kuipers 2011, Friedman & Kuipers 2013, Kuipers 2014, Nissenbaum & Shifman 2015, and Kuipers 2015.

Practical information

The doctoral seminar is free for all participants. Due to the limited capacity, registrants will be accepted on a first come, first served basis (however, priority will be given to graduate students).
Additional information for the members of the Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts: for you, all participation expenses (including accommodation and transportation) are covered. Please be informed that the deadline for cancellations is June 1, and registrants who fail to attend the seminar will be asked to reimburse the cost of accommodation, transportation, and food.

The pre-conference doctoral seminar is organised by the Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts, and supported by the ASTRA project of Tallinn University – TU TEE (European Union, European Regional Development Fund).

Graduate students may also find it of interest that small grants are available for the best student abstracts submitted before January 1, 2018. See the call for papers for more information.