In recent years disability’s relationship with humour and comedy has begun to be theorised. A special issue of the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies seeks to provide a platform for these debates.
Guest edited by Dr. Tom Coogan (University of Leicester) and Dr. Rebecca Mallett (Sheffield Hallam University) the Call for Papers is as follows:
According to Morreall (2009), the Incongruity Theory “is today the most widely accepted theory of humour.” This theory holds that what makes a situation humorous is “that there is something odd, abnormal or out of place, which we enjoy in some way.” Add to this Mitchell and Snyder’s (2000) concept of narrative prosthesis, which identifies disability (and with it oddness, abnormality and “out of placeness”) as the crutch upon which narratives lean for their representational power, and a more fundamental relationship between disability and humour is suggested. As Moran (2003) has observed, humour is a term with a multitude of meanings. Among other things, she observes, it is a “cognitive style”; a term for a stimulus (e.g. a joke) or the response (e.g. laughter); a term for complex interactions between individuals; a “personality trait”; and an inherent characteristic.
Whatever the meaning, humour remains a multi-faceted thing. It can include as well as it excludes. It can both ease and exacerbate. What is clear is that humour creates many more questions than it answers. Who is allowed to make jokes about disability? If we are offended, should we just “get a sense of humour”? Is there a hierarchy of impairments, with some impairments being “fair game” and others “off limits”? Is there such a thing as “disability” humour? Does humour run the risk of attacking the seriousness, and thus the legitimacy, of disability rights? Or does it have a part to play in the struggle for such rights? How is disability playing out in the current vogues for satirical comedy and the comedy of embarrassment (e.g. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Office”)?
This special issue of JLCDS will explore the interplay between humour, impairment and disability across all forms of culture and the media. Submissions might consider representations of disability in particular texts or specific forms. Alternatively, they might examine disability theory in relation to humour theory. Submissions on all topics related to disability, humour and comedy are very welcome. Considerations of the impact of “political correctness” – the policing of what can and cannot be made funny – as well as the impact of “critical correctness” (Mallett, 2007) – the policing of what can and cannot be said about humorous/comedic representations of disability -are encouraged. We urge submissions to think the unthinkable and address the difficult questions.
Proposals (400 word abstract and a short bio) should be emailed to the guest editors Tom Coogan (University of Leicester): firstname.lastname@example.org or Rebecca Mallett (Sheffield Hallam University): email@example.com by March 1st, 2011. Final submissions will be due by October 2011.