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Course Description

The course will enlighten us on the nature of humor, its role in the good life, and its presence in our culture especially in comedic movies and TV shows. It will disclose the epistemological role of humor (its relation to truth) and will discuss its ontological root (its relation with reality), along with its more traditional roles in aesthetics, ethics, and politics. It will span the various functions of humor, its aggressive, sexual, social, defensive, and intellectual functions. It will introduce the history of the different genres of the comical in various cultures, Eastern and Western alike. The various functions of humor and the readings introducing them will be exemplified with movies spanning 100 years of cinema and contemporary TV shows. The course will also address the multifarious relations Western philosophy entertained with the comical from its inception in the 6th century BC to this day. Finally, the course will teach us how to use humor to effectively implement philosophic ideals, such as self-knowledge, deliberation, understanding, and toleration, to approach the human condition from a realistic point of view by practicing living with unresolved conflict, and, alternatively, to resolve the inherent conflict in the human condition on a higher level that through acceptance of our shared ridiculousness yields joy and serenity. Through the apparently fun topic of humor, the deepest aspects of human reality will be elegantly approached, such as the tragic sense of life, the ambivalence that plagues everything human, and the conflict, both internal and external, that defines our condition, and finds its expression in our culture, in movies and TV shows, in stand-up comedy and everyday life.

This is a virtual asynchronous course that has no fixed meeting pattern and gives students the flexibility to interact with course content on their own schedule; please note: some asynchronous courses may include required sessions and/or proctored exams at specific times. Tufts virtual courses are designed to provide high-quality, flexible, and interactive courses to Tufts and visiting students. For more information about virtual course policies and expectations, please visit

Basic Enrollment Requirements: None

High School students will be prompted to submit an additional application after enrollment including: a high school transcript, letter of recommendation, parental permission, and other required consent forms.

Instructor Approval: Not Required.

Remission Eligible: Yes; first day of term; all university policies apply.

Refund Policy: Asynchronous Course Policy

Affiliated With:

School of Arts & Sciences