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2011.3.

4 Class Notes 1
APE Comedy and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Dan Parker

1 Comedy
- our discussion of Comedy was centered around two handouts: Types of Comedy and Theories of
Humor and Comedy
- the first is quite concise and well written and need no further abbreviation so I simply refer any readers
to the handout
- in addition, much of the material is the same as the what was included in the Tragedy and Comedy
Wiki page that was developed for the first semester final: https://docs.google.com/document/d/
12iPCV6KI3ntsl6IrkuvzvLGaJU2qmv13X3hEBpofDjY/edit?hl=en&pli=1#
- the second handout, which is not nearly as concise, I will summarize the key points of below

1.1 Theories of Humor and Comedy


- there are six necessary criteria for humor, if one is absent then “humor will fail”
1. it must appeal the intellect rather than the emotions
2. it must be mechanical
3. it must be inherently human, with the capability of reminding us of humanity
4. there must be a set of established societal norms with which the observer is familiar, either
through everyday life or through the author providing it in expository material, or both
5. the situation and its component parts (the actions performed and the dialogue spoken) must
be inconsistent or unsuitable to the surrounding or association (i.e. the societal norms)
6. it must be perceived by the observer as harmless or painless to the participants
- just as with Tragedy, there are many theories of comedy
1. intellectual theory
2. superiority theory
3. relief theory
4. incongruity theory
5. ambivalence theory
- Aristotle believed that “comedy is that ‘which causes no pain or destruction. . . is distorted but
painless’ ”
- Freud thought that comedy was “a means of outwitting the ‘censor’ ”
- in other words, comedy provides us a way to fulfill the desires of our baser instincts, which often
are sexual or include glorying in the misfortunes of others while not actually behaving in such a
way, but only in response to a story
- in sum, comedy is a means of tricking the Superego

2 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


- in addition to learning literary view on comedy, we also read some comedy itself, i.e. either The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Pride and Prejudice
- since I read only the former in this class, I refer readers seeking a discussion of Pride and Prejudice
to the blogs of others
- a brief discussion of Huck Finn follows
- Huck Finn, written by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), is on the surface a book about the
continuing adventures of Huck after the events of Tom Sawyer and functions in some ways as a sequel
from a different point of view
- is observed more closely, however, the book is more serious
- many of Huck’s ‘adventures’ are carefully calculated to do one of two things:
1. show Huck moving along the path to maturity or,
2. criticize Southern society.
- the first one clearly places the novel in the category of Bildungsroman whereas the second makes it
into social commentary
- indeed, these make a good combination because the innocent protagonist can say childish things that
expose the foibles of society
2011.3.4 Class Notes 2
APE Comedy and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Dan Parker

- it is debatable if Huck actually has grown up at the end


- he is severely hindered in his own action by Tom and Tom’s Romanticism at the end
- moreover, in the very last sentence, “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest,
because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”
- it is very clear that Huck — unlike, say, Candide — is not ready to “go and work in the garden” but
rather seeks out new adventures
- on the other hand, Huck initially resisted being “sivilized” in the beginning of the book by Miss
Watson, but was actually quite receptive to what she was saying
- either interpretation can easily be taken an supported