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Title: Comic license and extreme figurations in contemporary American storytelling
Author: Sullivan, Emma Lalage Mair
ISNI:       0000 0004 7969 4083
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2019
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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.
Supervisor: Stack, Allyson ; Taylor, Andrew Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: contemporary storytelling ; contemporary fiction ; contemporary film ; comic writing ; comedy ; comic license ; extremity ; George Saunders ; Miranda July ; Donald Antrim ; Jordan Peele