Lesson Plan: Henri Bergson’s Theory of Humor

Ian here—

The following is a lesson plan for a day spent discussing Henri Bergson’s theory of humor in my course “Comedy and the Moving Image.”[i] It’s admittedly unusual, but I found it to be wonderfully productive.

The first third or so of this course was spent discussing some major philosophical theories of humor (Hobbes, Kant, Bergson) and watching silent slapstick comedy shorts. Knowing that devoting a solid block of class to silent cinema came with the danger of alienating students, I also spiced things up by showing a lot of contemporary YouTube videos in class, which kept them engaged. (The “fail video” genre makes a terrific pairing with Hobbes’ theory of humor!) You’ll see some of that back-and-forth in this lesson.

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