We’ve just learned that Professor Tara Friedman of Widener English has joined the blog Humor in America as a contributing writer. Here she is talking a bit about her research, writing, and teaching:
While now a focal point of my academic interests, humor was relatively unknown to me until I was first introduced to Sherman Alexie in grad school through a Native American lit seminar, where I immediately fell in love with his combative comedy. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the extensive work and field of Humor Studies, but was encouraged to steer clear of it due to its perceived lack of academic rigor.
In his review of Walter Blair’s book Native American Humor (1800-1900), Kenneth B. Murdock addressed this concern: “One of the most absurd of the many absurd academic superstitions is that the study of humorous literary material is somehow less respectable than the study of writings, however unimportant, which can amuse no one” (644). For those who doubt the rigor of Humor Studies, Blair’s book, his extensive research methodology and clear prose, as Murdock argues, should be a starting point for quieting their cries.
I now incorporate Alexie, Blair, and many other authors, commentators, and critics in Humor Studies into my scholarship and my classroom. At Widener, I teach a literary genres course and a short fiction course dedicated to the study of humorous works, and I am currently revising a forthcoming article focusing on Alexie’s brand of humor in his short fiction. If anyone has interest in the field, I encourage them to email me, stop by my office for a chat, and/or visit the HA! Blog at humorinamerica.wordpress.com.
The taking on of this role provides Professor Friedman with a lively outlet and wider audience for her scholarly interests, and we look forward to reading her posts!