University of Edinburgh
Sullivan, Emma Lalage Mair.
Comic license and extreme figurations in contemporary American storytelling.
Degree: PhD, 2019, University of Edinburgh
In this project I examine the significance and sophistication of comedy in contemporary American storytelling, in order to get beyond its frequent characterisation as either a superficial sweetener or a form of escapism. My thesis argues instead for comedy's usefulness as a strategy for effecting multiple responses: intimacy, recognition, attachment, de-familiarisation, celebration and catharsis, all in the service of confronting the unbearable. Examining work by George Saunders, Miranda July, Donald Antrim, and the filmmaker, Jordan Peele, I argue that comic license allows for the forthright address of troubling issues; class in Saunders's short fiction; sexuality in July's first novel; national identity for Antrim and race in Peele's film, Get Out. This license is effected in multiple ways: through the obliviousness of characterological traits such as naivety and pedantry for instance, as well as through the mechanisms of incongruity and relief. Given that the works I examine are challenging, 'edgy', both in terms of style and content, I suggest that the comedy is inflected by what we might loosely call extremity. While extremity is arguably foundational to comedy, in that the comic violation of conventional boundaries necessitates it to one degree or another; I also argue that the comic license enables the work's 'extreme figurations' by ensuring the reader's or the viewer's consent. Comic pleasure thus keeps us close to what might otherwise be overwhelming. In addition, comedy's tendency towards the material and the particular - the proverbial slip on the banana skin - helps to ground or embed the extremity of the work's abstract or fantastical aspect.
Subjects/Keywords: contemporary storytelling; contemporary fiction; contemporary film; comic writing; comedy; comic license; extremity; George Saunders; Miranda July; Donald Antrim; Jordan Peele
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APA (6th Edition):
Sullivan, E. L. M. (2019). Comic license and extreme figurations in contemporary American storytelling. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1842/36060
Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):
Sullivan, Emma Lalage Mair. “Comic license and extreme figurations in contemporary American storytelling.” 2019. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Edinburgh. Accessed November 14, 2019.
MLA Handbook (7th Edition):
Sullivan, Emma Lalage Mair. “Comic license and extreme figurations in contemporary American storytelling.” 2019. Web. 14 Nov 2019.
Sullivan ELM. Comic license and extreme figurations in contemporary American storytelling. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Edinburgh; 2019. [cited 2019 Nov 14].
Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/1842/36060.
Council of Science Editors:
Sullivan ELM. Comic license and extreme figurations in contemporary American storytelling. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Edinburgh; 2019. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/1842/36060