Theme and session suggestions
Humour and comedy are an obvious part of human coexistence. The joke that attracts laughter is to be found everywhere and at all times. It is a universal human expression and something we all recognize when we see it unfold before our eyes. But what we find funny is far from universal. Perhaps there is nothing more difficult to translate – between languages, between cultures, but also across time – than a joke, where the context is almost always unspoken, and yet all the more necessary for the understanding and the laughter. An act of implicit pre-understanding that creates a sense of community as well as exclusion, which has the ability to outwit the censorship of power as well as to humiliate the weaker under the guise of ridicule.
This, humour's special activation of implicit pre-understanding, is what we believe makes it an extremely well-suited phenomenon for the type of conferences we are striving for. Since its inception, CSS has aimed to make visible how scientifically productive it is to bring together and compare research that share study objects – the cultures and languages of the Nordic countries – but which studies these objects from very different vantage points, and as such, with very different pre-understandings. Which brings into the light, rather than make invisible, the implicit. Only in an international context, in the meeting between Nordic and non-Nordic researchers, can the questions about Nordic humour that the theme activates be explored in a way that is able to encompass the entire dynamic spectrum of differences and similarities that "Norden" constantly constitutes. Questions such as;
Is there a distinguished Nordic or Scandinavian humour? How has the humour found in the old Norse tales and poems been perceived by readers in different times and in different places? Can the Scandinavian context say anything new about Kierkegaard's theory of humour, or perhaps about his actual humour? What significance has humour had for the great international success of Scandinavian children's literature? How do the global events surrounding the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's or the Swedish artist Lars Vilks so-called "Muhammad cartoons" relate to the local history of satire in Denmark and in Sweden?
We are convinced that our theme arouses thoughts and inspiration in you as well, and we expect a conference full of exciting new discoveries, ideas and perspectives. Sorted under the following session headings (click to read more about the session sub-theme):
Already in the Icelandic tales and in the Nordic mythology one can find plenty of humoristic elements. Considering this long tradition of humour in Nordic art and literature, one may ask whether there is a special kind of Nordic humour that would differ from humoristic configurations in other parts of the world. At the same time, one may wonder if there are different types of humour in the Nordic countries. Could it be that Danish humour differs from Swedish and Norwegian, or that Scandinavians have a hard time understanding, for example, Finnish or Icelandic humour?
Humour in Nordic Poetry
Humour and humoristic representations have a long tradition in Nordic poetry. Humour in poetry can range from deep and pitch black to light and harmonious. So, how does the relationship between humour and Nordic poetry look like? How is humour being expressed in the Nordic poetry, and how does it function? What is the purpose of the humour, what is its linguistic function, and what is its poetic contribution?
The accepted papers within this stream, Humour in Nordic poetry, will after the conference result in a separate book volume with the same title, that will be edited by Anders Mortensen and Daniel Möller.
Humour in Children- and Youth Culture
Given the prominent role that humour often play in the Scandinavian culture for children and young people, it is striking how little research that has been conducted on it. What functions do children and youth culture’s elements of satire, irony and parody fulfil? Or its situation comedy, its funny misunderstandings, its comically embarrassing parents, or the humour of shame? Can humour for children and young people be subversive – or does it rather tend to confirm and reproduce existing norms? Is there an ideology behind the humour in culture for children and young people? Does the humour aimed for children and young people differ from the one intended for adults? If so, what distinguishes it? We welcome both studies of individual works and authorships, as well as studies of more general issues.
Humour and Society
Humour has a history of functioning as subversive and challenging, a carnivalesque mode of expression that turns societal structure's and familiar thought patterns upside down. The socially critical humour has the ability to identify contradictions, hypocrisy and to call our attention to the Emperor's nudity. But satire, parody and irony are also types of communication that often generate very different responses. Perceived as liberating to some people, others find it hurtful and/or shameful, as in the case of the "Muhammad cartoons" published in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten in 2005 and the Swedish artist Lars Vilk's "Rondellhund" in 2007. Cases that illustrate how complex satirical humour can be. What does the satire/parody look like in Scandinavia, now and over the centuries? Does it tend to question and undermine the reigning social norms and regimes, or does it rather have a history of making fun of people and phenomena that are perceived to be outside the normality of the majority? Maybe it isn't one or the other? Also, as in many other regions of the western world, the debate about the limitations, the unofficial 'laws of humour', runs wild in the Nordic countries as well. But what are the specific characteristics of this debate in the region? What is one allowed to joke about in Scandinavia?
Humour and Identity
In what way does humour contribute to the creation and maintenance of different aspects of identity, such as cultural, class, gender and sexuality? How does it participate in the discursive work of inclusion and exclusion in the Nordic societies? What is the relation between the Nordic national identities and the stereotypical caricatures they produce about each other? And what is the role of humour in the region's new demographic landscape, where the multicultural and internationally oriented urban centres are increasingly surrounded by a more conservative and nationalistically oriented countryside population? Where societies that traditionally has identified itself's – and been identified externally – with the results of its strong workers and women's movements, are increasingly set in flux by a new discourse of "identity politics" and "cultural wars"?
Theories of Humour
Which theories about the functions and conditions of humour seem particularly valid for Nordic contexts? Regardless whether it is the overarching paradigms in the history of humour research that is applied – those who draw attention to dominance, incongruence, relaxation and liberation – or important contributors to the tradition of humour research such as Aristotle, Kierkegaard, Bergson or Žižek are consulted, or it will rather be theories about specific comical genres and phenomena - such as comedy, irony, farce, parody, satire, slapstick, joke, caricature, nonsense, grotesque, l'humour noir or pun - which are noticed, the Nordic cultural sphere provides a rich and varied study material for both regional considerations and international comparisons.
Humour and Language
The tools of humour are verbal language, body language, gestures and other modalities. In this theme, some overarching questions are these: How is a joke created with verbal language - words, expressions, dialects, sociolects, etc.? What role do similarities play in words and expressions of humour? What shifts in meaning create humour? How do stand-up comedians create humour? What role do verbal language, body language, gestures play, and when is humour non-verbal, i.e. independent of the language context? How dependent is Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic humour on the characteristics of each language? How dependent is Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic humour on their cultural context?
Humorous Images of the Nordic Countries
The Nordic region and its cultural customs have often been the subject of humorous observations by foreign observers. At the same time, the northerners themselves have been happy to tell funny stories about their Nordic neighbours and ridicule people from other regions within their own country. Not infrequently, northerners have also viewed their own cultural traditions with a certain amount of ridicule. How have these humorous habits found expression in literature, visual arts and other artistic media?
Humour and New Media
As with so many other human expressions, the internet in general, and social media in particular, have created new avenues and worlds for humour to develop in. In these worlds, created and controlled by corporate giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter, humour seems to flourish like never before. Often short in time and anonymous in origin, jokes in the form of videos, text clips, photos and image montage flow through our phones and attract laughter. The universalist ambitions of companies tend to make these flows of humour international in nature, but as their technology is sensitive to its users preferences, specifically regional and national flows are also formed. What characterizes the Nordic digital humour world? Is it possible to recognize old traditions or identify new peculiarities? Which Nordic players exists in this market, on the international level as well as on the national or regional? And how do these players relate to, and what do they say about, contemporary nordic societies? What kind of caricature do they draw in their distorting mirror?