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Authors: Ravi, Sonali
Advisors: Benhaïm, André
Contributors: French and Italian Department
Keywords: ambivalence
Postcolonial humor
Subjects: French literature
African literature
Caribbean literature
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: From black face, sexist jokes, anti-Semitic caricatures to anti-Muslim cartoons, comedic discourses have targeted minority groups. The aim of this project is to demonstrate how minorities – who have been targets of jokes – have in turn themselves become its creators, using humor as a medium to deal with complicated questions of identity. This dissertation therefore explores the place of humor in the articulation of postcolonial and diasporic identities in modern France. To do so, it will examine varied practices of humor in contemporary novels, comic books, stand-up comedy and film by authors (Dany Laferrière, Alain Mabanckou, Leïla Sebbar), graphic novelists (Joann Sfar) and stand-uppers (Fellag, Gad Elmaleh, Jamel Debbouze, Shirley Souagnon and Fary). Humoring pathos – in the double sense of rendering comical but also establishing complicity – I ask how postcolonial creation plays with the very hegemonic tropes and types that it rejects. Of interest in this project is not humor writ large, but comedic play whose hallmark is a sense of ambivalence – the cultural productions at the core of this dissertation deal with issues of gravity with a sense of levity; they simultaneously coopt yet subvert colonial representations of alterity. I examine literary mechanisms like irony, parody, and satire, which allow humorists to establish distance from the colonial models that they repeat, thanks to their methods that are rife with scorn, mockery, disdain, and exaggeration. The dissertation will also examine forms of humor in which humorists do not separate themselves from their targets. We contend with acts of self-derisory, grotesque and carnivalesque humor, which blur the distance between the subjects and objects of laughter. I argue that humorous play with official discourses allows French authors, artists, and comics not only to delegitimize simplistic Metropolitan representations of alterity, but also to furnish ludic alternatives in their place. By using humor in postcolonial creation, these humorists laugh at misery and play with images of cultural alterity without propagating them. I show that these artists reappropriate colonial rhetoric in humorous ways, such that they offer critiques of colonial enterprises themselves, while also transforming them to reflect the contemporary diversity and heterogeneity of modern France.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:French and Italian

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