Laughing with Feminists : A Cognitive Approach to the Female Comedic Memoir

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Title: Laughing with Feminists : A Cognitive Approach to the Female Comedic Memoir
Author: Haug, Melissa
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Humanistinen tiedekunta, Nykykielten laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern Languages
Helsingfors universitet, Humanistiska fakulteten, Institutionen för moderna språk
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2018
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: englantilainen filologia
English Philology
Engelsk filologi
Abstract: Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl, and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? are four rather understudied female comedic memoirs. This thesis first explores the problematic nature of defining the genre of these texts and how aspects of their ideology and fictionality affect not only the authors, but the readers as well. Secondly, the humor presented in these texts are analyzed from a cognitive perspective, mainly using Lisa Zunshine’s theory of mind. Classic humor theories such as incongruity, superiority, and relief are all critical in rendering fruitful analysis of these texts. Contrarily to some scholars, I argue that humor and amusement function actively in the mind. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the two comedians with the most experience in this thesis, tend to use humor as a way to seek permission to speak about uncomfortable topics that encompass the female experience. Some of these topics include female body standards, sex, marriage, motherhood, and work. As younger comedians, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham expand on some of these topics in similar ways, but they speak more boldly and directly about certain topics compared to their older counterparts. Fey and Poehler’s clever use of incongruous humor allowed Kaling and Dunham to write more openly about the female experience and to use humor in interesting, versatile ways. Because I argue that humor functions in the mind in potentially activating ways, I finally analyze how all four authors use humor as a tool to express feminist rhetoric. The results of the analysis show the ambiguous nature of postfeminism, and the possible emergence of a fourth wave of feminism. As comedic veterans, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler pave the way for Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling in using humor to express different aspects of feminism. I explore the many layers of feminism, and how humor can work with feminism as powerful tool in engaging everyone, men and women, in a dialogue about feminism.
Subject: Amy Poehler
Tina Fey
Lena Dunham
Mindy Kaling
cognitive studies

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