Course Spotlight for Spring 2020

Course Spotlight for Spring 2020


The Many ‘Mrs. Maisels’: Jewish Women in American Comedy


Jewish humor comes by its subversiveness honestly: Jewish theology and culture encourages us to constantly question authority. Male Jewish American comedians like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl have famously demonstrated these subversive tendencies through their socially and politically critical comedy. This course explores how female Jewish comedians in twentieth-century America have demonstrated the same level of subversive tendencies, albeit not in overtly social or political contexts until the 1970's. Instead, female Jewish comedians showed their subversive tendencies in ways that reveal a great deal about the role and perception of women in a given decade. Early in the twentieth century, when women's identity was primarily rooted in the sexual and domestic realm, they exercised subversive humor by making jokes about these matters. As their political and social identities develop, so too do their socially and politically subversive jokes. This course will examine that progression, paying special attention to pioneers like Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, Joan Rivers, Elayne Boosler, and Sarah Silverman.

(CCI) Cross Cultural Inquiry
Cross-listed in another department
(ALP) Arts, Literature & Performance
(CZ) Civilizations