February 2016

Humor and Pain


In our latest report from the humanities research seminar on humor, David Blakely explore the surprising connections between laughter and suffering.

I recently saw an evening of stand-up comedy. One young comic, a lanky youth with hands like nervous birds, told roundabout – albeit very funny – jokes with a quirky delivery. He seemed uncomfortable on stage. After a particularly awkward joke he quickly followed up with, “So. I’m single.” Everyone laughed. Why did everyone laugh? Well, as I analyze the “joke,” the comic was simply delivering an obvious, if painful truth: he’s a nervous, quirky young man, uncomfortable and with a strange sense of humor; of course he’s single. We are laughing at his pain. Continue reading “Humor and Pain”

Call for student applications: Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Seminar on Food

Food is a foundational aspect of all human cultures. The manifold ways we grow, prepare, regulate, and share what we eat gives shape to identities both cultural and political, ethnic and national. Food preparation is a source of enormous creativity—our kitchens are social sites where tradition mixes with innovation amid a now global flow of ingredients, tastes, and techniques. Eating itself lies at the very core of most world religions, giving rise to ritual as well as to values like hospitality and generosity. In the arts, we find food everywhere, from early images of hunters scratched into rock through Renaissance still lives and modern cinema. It’s there in the earliest recorded literatures, like the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and it drives the plots of Renaissance plays and contemporary dystopian novels.

Some of the great cultural and historical shifts in human history can also be traced to changing food ways. Agricultural innovations, like the plow, and ecological disasters, like the Irish famines, have concentrated populations and dispersed them. We see the evidence of these great migrations in abandoned Mayan ruins and in the towns of western Oklahoma where the prairie turned to desert amid the Great Dust Bowl. Today, the industrialization of food production is changing what and how we eat, simultaneously contributing to climate change even while generating vast new global food supplies. The language of food, furthermore, shapes the very ways we write and speak about ourselves: taste and hunger, consumption and starvation—such words borrow the rituals of the table to describe our pleasure, desire, and pain. Food, in short, is an essential element of the human condition and throughout the 2016-17 academic year, the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities will explore its human dimensions through a diverse array of programs including concerts, performances, film screenings, exhibitions, discussions, lectures, cooking demonstrations, and shared meals.

In order to support this work, the OCH invites applications from all TU students for the Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar. The seminar will convene once a week through the fall 2016 semester and will build around the expertise of each participant to launch an intensive investigation of food, assisted by visiting speakers, artists, and performers. In the spring, participants will share their work with the larger community through talks, performances, colloquia, debates, and other events. The Center encourages interdisciplinary work and welcomes a broad interpretation of the theme that will carry our investigations across intellectual, critical, experimental, and aesthetic domains. All TU students are eligible and welcome to apply. For more information visit www.humanities.utulsa.edu.

Student Application for the 2016-2017 Research Seminar

Description: The Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Seminar sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities at the University of Tulsa is intended to promote engaged, intellectual discussion on topics of current public and intellectual interest. Every year, a group of approximately eight Research Fellows will be chosen to collaborate on a series of weekly seminar discussions. It is hoped that these discussions will then lead into further projects, undertaken collectively or individually. These might include research papers, digital projects, creative works, or efforts designed to spur civic action and service. The admissions committee will judge applications based on an assessment of the proposal’s interdisciplinary appeal and its potential for sparking dialogue among other members.

Eligibility: Undergraduate, graduate, and law students at TU across all majors and colleges are eligible for the seminar. In the case of undergraduate students, current juniors and second-semester sophomores will be given priority over freshman applicants. Current seniors are not eligible because the seminar requires a full-year commitment. Students selected to participate will be eligible to receive three upper-level credit hours (awarded either as an elective or in coordination with the student’s major program of study).

Theme: The theme for the 2016-17 seminar will be Food. You are encouraged to interpret this topic broadly and in ways that are appropriate to your own fields of expertise.

Application: Student applications for participation in the seminar should include the following.

  • A resume or CV, including contact information and an unofficial transcript
  • A brief letter of recommendation from a member of the TU faculty
  • Full responses to the three application questions listed below

Applications should be sent by electronic attachment to humanities@utulsa.edu

Application Deadline – March 2

If you have any questions about your application or eligibility, please contact Sean Latham at sean-latham@utulsa.edu or 918-631-2857.

Application Questions (no more than 1,500 words total for responses):

Why does the topic of food interest you and how does it connect your intellectual, personal or artistic interests?

How would participation in this seminar contribute to your educational goals? Do you see a project – perhaps a senior project, a TURC project, a conference paper, a dissertation chapter or some sort of artistic work – coming out of your participation in the seminar?

Provide a list of works (books, images, performances, films, articles, etc.) that you believe raise important issues in regard to food.