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Gilman Asks, "What's So Funny?"

Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Most have been told that learning to laugh at oneself is essential to weathering the barbs life may throw, and many feel that humor is key to becoming a better person.  However, speaker Sander L. Gilman begs to differ.  On Monday, April 4 at 7 p.m. in the Geneva Room, Gilman will deliver a talk, "When Did the Jews Become Funny: A New Debate about the Limits of Representation after 9/11 or an Older Problem?" that challenges these notions.

Gilman argues that the claim that "laughing at yourself" has become a part of our enlightened assumptions about being "civilized," and has since transformed into a notion that extends to groups as a whole.  In his talk, he asks, "When did the Jews become ‘funny'?" and "Why do we demand this of other groups, such as Muslims, today?"

The talk is sponsored by the Baron Fund, the Abbe Center for Jewish Life, the Department of Religion, and the Program in Media in Society. 

Gilman is a distinguished professor of the liberal arts and sciences as well as professor of psychiatry at Emory University. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author or editor of more than 80 books. His "Obesity: The Biography" appeared with Oxford University Press in 2010; his most recent edited volume, "Wagner and Cinema" (with Jeongwon Joe) was published in that same year.  For 25 years he was a member of the humanities and medical faculties at Cornell University where he held the Goldwin Smith Professorship of Humane Studies. 

For six years he held the Henry R. Luce Distinguished Service Professorship of the Liberal Arts in Human Biology at the University of Chicago and for four years was a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Medicine and creator of the Humanities Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He has served as the Visiting Historical Scholar at the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA; a Berlin prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin; the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of European Comparative Literature at Oxford University; and as Professor at the Institute in the Humanities, Birkbeck College.

For three years, Gilman served as a Visiting Research Professor at The University of Hong Kong, and has been a visiting professor at numerous universities in North America, South Africa, The United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, China, and New Zealand.  He was president of the Modern Language Association, and has been awarded a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) at the University of Toronto, elected an honorary professor of the Free University in Berlin, and an honorary member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

 

 


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