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Humanities Symposium Brings Humor to Humanity

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Through a series of humor-centered discussions, the humanities department and its guests explored the different ways humor is incorporated in people’s lives.

The 22nd annual Humanities Symposium, titled “Humor and Humanities,” hosted a total of 20 events throughout the week featuring a variety of speakers.

“Our goal is to spread intellectual engagement,” Humanities Symposium Co-Chair Carla McDonough said. “It's to make these ideas available. It's for different practitioners and scholars to share their thinking and ideas, and to get the general community to more deeply consider whatever topic we choose to focus on.”

Throughout the week, there were lectures by faculty speakers including members of the English, art, foreign language, communications, philosophy and theater and dance departments, respectively. They connected their specialties to the theme of humor.

The week of events started on Monday with a lecture titled “It’s Complicated: Comedy and Humor as Tools for Coping, Community, and Critique” led by McDonough. In this discussion, she explained this year's theme of humor and the complexities of it.

Communications professor Margaret Tully chose to connect the theme with current pop culture by speaking about comedy and feminism in the film, “Barbie.”

“The movie had this visceral reaction for people, and everyone I know texted me that they cried during the movie,” Tully said. “I thought that was the perfect encapsulation of humor and humanity.”

To further capture humanity through comedy in entertainment, the symposium featured the Belmont sketch comedy group, Fall Follies.

The group’s interactive lecture on Wednesday was about its comedic process which included improvisation, sketch performance and a sketch-writing workshop with the audience.

“We don't just write sketch comedy - we do sketch comedy,” Fall Follies director Austin DuPlantis said. “We don't just talk about how to do improv, we perform it, so I think bringing the interactive part of this experience to life through the symposium is really vital to what we wanted to do.”

The symposium also featured guest speakers from the University of Missouri St. Louis; Queens College, City University of New York; the University of Washington; Vanderbilt University; Lipscomb University; and Third Coast Comedy Club.

Thursday’s lectures concluded with a showcase and reception called “The Show You’re About to See,” which explored the relationship between humor and art through sculpture, video, painting and photographic media.

The final day of the symposium featured readings by winners of the Sandra Hutchins Creative Writing Competition.

“I hope through the course of the week there’s a greater understanding and appreciation for the ways we use humor and why we need it,” McDonough said. “Not just the idea that it’s separate from any kind of intellectual part of our lives, but that there's a part that humanizes everything.”


This article was written by Zoe Spangler

This story was updated for accuracy on Oct. 4.

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1 Comment

David Young
David Young
Dec 20, 2023

These kinds of things greatly inspire me. Such get-togethers are enjoyable for me, especially now that I've accomplished a lot of commitments and been really busy with my academics. And sop service helped me to handle a difficult assignment. I can now relax and use my time whatever I choose.

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