21L.021 | Spring 2022 | Undergraduate


Readings and Viewings

Session 1

No required readings. 

Supplemental Reading

Netflix. “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette | Official Trailer.” Jun 11, 2018. YouTube.

Knot, Juliana. “‘Saturday Night Live’ Writer Michael Che Slams Unfunny Comedy Culture.” The Federalist, July 24, 2018. 

Ryzik, Melena. “The Comedy-Destroying, Soul-Affirming Art of Hannah Gadsby.” The New York Times, July 24, 2018.

Zinoman, Jason. “If Comedy Is Making You Feel Bad, You’re Not Paying Attention.” The New York Times, July 26, 2018.

Session 2

Aristophanes. Lysistrata. In Four Plays by Aristophanes. London: Plume, 1994. ISBN: 9780452007178.

Read the entire play or as much as you can of Lysistrata. An online version of Lysistrata is available at Project Gutenberg.

Session 3

Spike Lee. Chi-Raq. USA, 2015.

Session 4

Plautus. The Two Menaechmuses. In Plautus. Translated by Wolfgang de Melo. Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library. ISBN: 9780674996786.

Session 5

Wilder, Billy. 1959. Some Like It Hot. United States: United Artists.

Sessions 6–7

No required readings.

Sessions 8–9

Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. In Four Comedies. Penguin Publishing Group, 1995.

Note: For Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, you can use any print edition or the digital one available through MIT.

Optional Film

Zeffirelli, Franco. 1967. The Taming of the Shrew. United States: Columbia Pictures.

Session 10

No required readings.

Sessions 11–12

Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. In Four Comedies. Penguin Publishing Group, 1995.

Note: As with your reading of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, you are free to use any print edition for Twelfth Night or the one available through MIT

Optional Film

Trevor Nunn. 1997. Twelfth Night. New Line Home Video.

Session 13

Behn, Aphra. The Rover and Other Plays. Edited by Jane Spencer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780199540204.

Please read Aphra Behn’s “Prologue” and Acts I-III. The print copy is preferred, but you can find a digital text at Gutenberg (read Part 1, which was a separate play, not Part 2, the sequel) or you can use the Internet Archive text.

Supplemental Reading

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Helene Iswolsky. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1971, pp. 66–96. ISBN: 9780262520249.

Session 14

Behn, Aphra. The Rover and Other Plays. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780199540204.

Finish reading The Rover (Acts IV-V).

Supplemental Reading

Pacheco, Anita. “Rape and the Female Subject in Aphra Behn’s ‘The Rover’.” ELH 65, no. 2 (1998): 323-345.

Corse, Taylor. “Seventeenth-Century Naples and Aphra Behn’s ‘The Rover’.” Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 29, no. 2 (2005): 41-51.

Sessions 15–17

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Edited by  James Kinsley, and Christina Lupton. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780198826736.

Note: Austen’s novel was published in 1813 in three volumes. The Oxford print edition ordered for the class retains that structure, and we will discuss each volume separately in class. If you are using an online edition such as Project Gutenberg or a print edition that runs the volumes together, the first reading assignment will cover chapters 1-23, the second chapters 24-42, and the last chapters 43-61.

Supplemental Readings

Casal, Elvira. “Laughing at Mr. Darcy: Wit and Sexuality in Pride and Prejudice.” Persuasions On-line 22 (2001).

Bailey, Martha. “The Marriage Law of Jane Austen’s World.” Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal On-Line 36, no. 1 (2015).

Optional Film

Leonard, Robert Z. 1940. Pride and Prejudice. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

Session 18

No required readings.

Session 19

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. Chapters 1–23. Herman Melville Electronic Library, 2008. 

You will find the text for Melville’s Moby-Dick at Melville Electronic Library. Select “Editions,” then Moby-Dick “Reading Text.” Read Chapters 1-23, the so-called “land chapters,” in which Ishmael prepares to go to sea.

Sessions 20–21

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays. Edited by Peter Raby. Oxford England: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780199535972.

An online version is available at Project Gutenberg.

Session 22

Chaplin, Charles. 1936. Modern Times. United States: United Artists.

Supplemental Readings

Bergson, Henri. Excerpt from Laughter. In Comedy: Meaning and Form. Edited by Robert Corrigan, pp. 471–477. United States, Chandler Publishing Company, 1965. ISBN: 9780810200708.

Freud, Sigmund. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. Translated by James Strachey. WW Norton & Company, 1960, pp. 221–236. ISBN: 9780393001457.

Sessions 23–24

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Mariner Books, 2007. ISBN: 9780544709041.

Session 25

TED. “Three Ideas. Three Contradictions. Or Not. | Hannah Gadsby.” Jun 12, 2019. YouTube.

Netflix is a Joke. “How Hannah Gadsby’s High-Functioning Autism Works.” May 25, 2020. YouTube.

rejectedburrito. “Andy Kaufman on HBO (1977) pt. 1 of 4). Nov 20, 2009. YouTube.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2022
Learning Resource Types
assignment Written Assignments