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No Laughing Matter

Visual humor is focus of fall Leslie Center institute

From stand-up comedy to political cartoons, humor is a common tactic when dealing with sensitive and difficult topics. This fall the Leslie Center for the Humanities hosts "No Laughing Matter: Visual Humor in Ideas of Race, Nationality, and Ethnicity," an institute that examines the ways visual humor has been and is used in connection with ideas central to identity.   

angela rosenthalAngela Rosenthal (Photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

"Humor can be a form of self-assertion and of defense; it can also be a particularly effective weapon to ridicule others, as is often the case in visual satire and caricature," says Angela Rosenthal, associate professor of art history and director of the institute. "The institute aims to deepen our understanding of humor's wounding and healing properties."

"No Laughing Matter" runs from Sept. 24 through Nov. 16, bringing together artists and scholars from a range of disciplines and institutions. Institute fellows, six from Dartmouth and four from other institutions, will meet weekly, and a series of guest speakers will lecture on the impact of visual humor on history, psychology, culture, and everyday life.

Related events include an international conference on visual humor (Nov. 8-11), a meeting of the Northeast American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (Oct. 25-28), a Hopkins Center performance by Arab American comedian Dean Obeidallah (Nov. 9), and a special exhibition on visual humor at the Hood Museum of Art (Oct. 6-Dec. 2). The exhibition labels are written by institute fellows, as well as Dartmouth faculty and staff, and present a broad range of critical and creative voices. Acclaimed British art critic Kobena Mercer will deliver the conference's keynote address, "Carnivalesque and Grotesque: What Bakhtin's Laughter Tells Us About Art and Culture," with a reception and exhibition viewing to follow. The event will take place Thursday, Nov. 8 at 4:30 p.m. in the Loew Auditorium, Hood Museum of Art, and is free and open to the public.

The institute is organized by the Leslie Center with the participation of the Yale Center for British Art and the Du Bois Institute of African and African-American Studies at Harvard. David Bindman, professor emeritus of the history of art at University College London, is the Morton senior fellow and institute co-director.

For more information about the institute and related events, visit the Leslie Center Web site or call 646-0896.

By SARAH MEMMI

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Last Updated: 12/17/08