As you must realize if you’ve been counting, last week marked post eight of “I Wish I’d Had A Camera,” which means it’s time for something new. I know that people in some quarters (cough Natalie cough) have been asking for the return of Things You Never Noticed You Noticed, but there’s something I wanted to explore first. So, without further ado, comes my next blog series: Funnier Than You Realized!
Here’s the thing: older works of art, whether they’re novels or movies or paintings, are often downright hilarious, just like much of today’s art is. However, we very rarely think of them as such. Part of this is just that we’re coming at them with the distance of time, and some of the jokes they make are as inscrutable to us as ours would be to them. Another part of this, though, is certainly that we approach so many of these stories as high school or middle school students, when the focus is on whatever intellectual exercises can be gleaned from them, where their intellectual merit is often considered the only worthwhile aspect of them.
I think this has a huge impact on our understanding and appreciation of these stories as well as the way we think of humor, and I don’t think that impact is a positive one. After all, humor is one of the most powerful ways a story can connect with its audience, and depriving older stories of that tool goes a long way toward convincing students that they’re boring, and turning them off the great works. Furthermore, this helps create the perception in many young readers exploring these texts for the first time that all great literarture is deeply serious by nature, that humor doesn’t play a part in the masterpieces the world remembers. When we don’t see or refuse to acknowledge the presence of humor in these stories, we them more difficult to connect with while we help hurt the literary reputation of humor itself, making it less likely the next generation of writers trying to create great works will employ the technique, in doing so degrading the potentially quality of tomorrow’s literary work.
With that in mind, I present you with the following blog series Funnier Than You Realized! Every week I’ll focus on a different work of literature that is generally considered to be a classic, and explore the ways in which is, you guessed it, funnier than you realized. We’ll be ranging all over, the literary canon, focusing on works that aren’t considered comedies (obviously), and exploring the ways in which humor is woven into the very serious literary pursuits these texts undertake humor, purposefully and deliberately. And hopefully, thought it all, we’ll get a better sense of the reasons that humor is not just a part, but an integral and important part, of these great works.
With excitement and optimism,