The unit organization of two topics for grade eleven: humor in literature
Freeman, Elsie Thorpe
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The primary aim of this thesis is to construct two units on humor for use in teaching literature in grade eleven. Two secondary aims are to outline the relevance of humor to the teaching of the language arts, and particularly to the teaching of American literature, and to summarize much of the research on the development of American humor in literature. Both units presented are untested. While the four major phases of the language arts, reading, writing, speaking and listening are considered, reading is emphasized. Folklore, music and art are considered as they are relevant to humor. There is a vast learning potential in the study of humor. An analysis of humorous literature reveals that such techniques as comic metaphor, comic imagery, understatement and overstatement, and double meanings are also legitimate literary devices. Many other comic devices, including illogical-transitions, unintentional puns and dangling modifiers are frequently unwitting errors of student writing, perhaps correctible when seen as unintended but potential humor. Some teachers have employed informal humor by caricaturing the stereotyped literary figures. The new emphasis placed by the National Council of Teachers of English on habitual reading for enjoyment has fortified the study of humorous literature in the classroom, as have research studies demonstrating students' liking for humorous selections. In addition to the release provided by humorous reading is the insight it can provide upon human motives and human nature. Such humorists as James Thurber and E.B. White have commented on this serious facet of humor. To students of American literature, the progress of American humor has been an important index to our folkways, our social history and our national point of view, insofar as one can be defined. In accomplishing one of the secondary aims of the thesis, current statements on the purpose of education in a democracy have been recorded. The affirmation of the role of education in training all children for competent citizenship has led to changes in the curricula and techniques of all of the subject areas, and particularly of the language arts. From its original program of training in the classics, language arts now emphasizes, with specific accomplishments in subject matter, ten major objectives, developed by the National Council. These objectives accent development of the emotional, intellectual and social capabilities of the child. Basic to the changed approach to literature has been the redefinition of its goals, now emphasizing the personal response of the child to his reading. Dora V. Smith and Robert C. Pooley, leaders in the National Council have affirmed this redefinition. Paralleling this new point of view have been the introduction of extensive reading, providing a choice of graded reading material to suit the particular child, and literature written expressly for young adults. The experience approach, inaugurated by the National Council, has been aimed at providing wide, student-centered reading. With the accent on youth-centered literature has been the impetus toward material orienting young people to the contemporary world, with emphasis on American literature. Within the field of American literature, American humor has recently been recognized as one of the important contributions to our so-called "iiterature of the soil," and a significant cultural index. Recording the strains and excitement of a new nation and its people, American humor served in the late Colonial and early frontier period as an outlet for the people and as identification for divergent regions. The wandering, sharp talking Yankee, the tall-tale spinning frontiersman, and the backwoodsman were adopted by the people as the picture of what they wanted to be, and, in part, were. Bearing a characteristically realistic satire, a friendly good humor and sharp penetration, American humor had ramifications in our literature. The American short story is attributed in part to the tall tale, while American realism may have had its roots in the trenchant observation of the newspapermen who created Artemus Ward, Bill Arp, John Billings, Petroleum Nasby and their ilk. Southern humor produced Negro minstrelsy, while Mark Twain, by nature a humorist, took the folklore of the Mississippi region and the frontier region of Davy Crockett, Mike Fink and other half real, half legendary figuxes of folklore, the tall tale technique of the West and Southwest, and the pathetically comic itinerant figures of early America, combined them with precise, artful characterization and sly wit and produced literary types of first magnitude in American literature. Beyond the 1870's American humor was represented in the immigrant characterizations of Peter Finley Dunne (Mr. Dooley), Myra Kelly, T.A. Daly and other delineators of national strains. The city was further expressed in the pathos of O. Henry, the sympathetic wit of Clarence Day, the sardonic satire of Ring Lardner and the subtle wit of Don Marquis, James Thurber and E.B. White. Educators as far back as 1907 recognized the importance of training in humor for maturity; current educators now stress it. The Experience Curriculum devoted two sections to material on humor, while the public schools of the cities of Hampton, Pennsylvania, Denver, Colorado, Atlanta, Georgia and Baltimore, Maryland, and the states of Pennsylvania, Nevada and Florida suggest specific teaching material on humor. The first unit presented, "Laughing Stock: Humor in Literature" offers general information in the psychology of humor, types of literary humor and the appropriateness and purpose of various kinds of humor. The unit is accompanied by a reading list of humor of many nations, arranged in three levels of difficulty. Specific language arts objectives cite ability to distinguish denotative and connotative words and sense appealing words, recognition of climax and contrast in a story, and increased ability to see a mental picture. The second unit, "Humor in American Literature" covers material from Washington Irving to E.B. White, stressing American humor as a guide to tho social history of America and as an interpretation of American character. From frontier and early New England humor, the unit moves to the political and regional writing of the middle 1800's, then to the urban literature of the 1900's. Not strictly chronological, the unit delimitations present the progress of our humor in parallel themes. Reading material includes all of the major American humorists of all regions and periods, with considerable stress on tall tales and folk humor. As in the previous unit, the reading list is arranged in three levels of difficulty.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University