CFP: Special Issue of Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures

Laughter

Abstracts due July 1, 2020. Final papers due October 1, 2020 

Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures invites abstracts in English or French on all matters pertaining to laughter in relation to young people’s texts and cultures for a special issue that will be published in Summer 2021.

While the very idea of laughter may appear inappropriate during a pandemic, the high number of internet memes devoted to laughing at it indicates that it has proved to be therapeutic for many. No matter how difficult the times, laughter is something many people do from their earliest days and across their entire lifetimes, and while it may at first glance appear to be merely an innocent expression of amusement, it is actually a far more complex articulation. A laugh can be sudden, ambiguous, unexpected, or even sinister. It can be an involuntary burst of emotion, or it may be strategic, derisive and dismissive. When shared, laughter can foster community and at the same time distinguish between those who belong and those who do not since a laugh out of place can be perceived as a failure to interpret cultural codes. Comedic conventions can shift over time and are in large part culturally determined, but the laugh itself is a remarkably universal form of expression despite its many forms and diverse contexts. At once a ubiquitous nonverbal vocalization expressing joy or mirth (Bryant et. al. 1516) and a “multifaceted social signal” that can surpass social bonding to “also serve as a social rejection cue” (Ethofer 353), laughter has posed a significant challenge to researchers in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.1 At the same time, as Bakhtin notes in his introduction to Rabelais and his World, “[l]aughter and its forms represent […] the least scrutinized sphere of the people’s creation” (4). Notwithstanding a large body of research and philosophy on laughter, there is still so much we do not know about it. Its importance is nevertheless underlined by the human tendency to create laughter in response to the world, and to evoke and inspire it across numerous forms and genres as well as in everyday cultural practice. It is doubtless an integral register in entertainment, which, as Richard Dyer points out, “offers the image of ‘something better’ to escape into, or something we want deeply that our day-to-day lives don’t provide. Alternatives, hopes, wishes—these are the stuff of utopia, the sense that things could be better, that something other than what is can be imagined and maybe realized.” (20)

There is no doubt that laughter plays an important role in young people’s texts and cultures, and one that differs considerably from the role it plays among adults, although appeals to a dual audience mean that both adults and children can enjoy a laugh or two in response to children’s media (Butler 40). In picture books, an unruly gross-out toilet-humor aesthetic can provoke riotous laughter in children, whose tastes and limited knowledge invite unique engagements with the bawdy. One could argue that the bawdy tends to draw a different kind of laughter from children than adults, making research on children’s laughter an important and necessary supplement to research on humour and comedy in children’s literature.2 This focus may be especially important for children in early childhood education, since, as Laura Tallant points out, researchers have tended to privilege the role that humour plays among school-aged children (252). Significantly, laughter can also function as an interactional resource. Understanding how it does so among young people is, however, not well understood, since extant research disproportionately focuses on adults. In his own attempt to redress this gap, Gareth Walker argues that it is as important for children “to figure out how to use laughter […] in a reflexively accountable way” as it is for adults (20).

The darker side of laughter emerges in young people’s texts and cultures as well, notably in the context of bullying where it functions as a means of articulating power and control. Representations of laughter do not always function as “feel good” forms of escapism, but rather, can be triggering for young readers who often find themselves at the receiving end of hostile laughter. Testifying to the psychic effects of malicious laughter, the fear of laughter—called “gelatophobia”—is an object of study in psychiatric research.3 Laughing, or being the one laughed at, can determine social position among children the same way it does among adults. The social function of laughter remains a key site of critical inquiry for researchers who study youth culture, indicating that social-science research is as important as literary or cultural studies research in making sense of laughter as a complex, multivalent, dynamic and powerful expression among young people.4

In an attempt to redress some of the gaps in research on laughter in studies of young people’s texts and cultures, we invite articles that offer critical engagements with laughter for a special issue on the topic. Social scientific engagements as well as those using an historical studies, literary studies, theatre studies, media studies, or cultural studies approach are welcome.

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Laughter and community: inclusion and isolation
  • Satire/parody in children’s media; dual audiences
  • Bodily, bawdy and carnivalesque humour
  • Derisive laughter; cruel laughter; mockery; gelatophobia
  • Laughter as a social reward, social soother, and/or social enforcer
  • Laughter as expression; laughter and affect
  • Laughter across cultures
  • Laughter and sex/gender; sexual orientation; queer texts, identities, and cultures
  • Sublimation, laughter/tears and awkward laughter
  • Comedy, Slapstick, Horror: laughter and genre
  • Catharsis and annihilation
  • Laughter as interactional resource
  • Laughter as contagious
  • Laughter and optimism/pessimism
  • Clowns and Laughter
  • Funny Kid Memes and the Adult Gaze
  • Comics and the “Funnies”
  • Laughter in story, film, TV, video games, vlogs, and other media designed for or created and/or consumed by young people

Timeline

  • Abstracts, written either in English or French, are due July 1, 2020
  • Short-listed papers will be notified on or around July 15, 2020
  • Final papers due October 1, 2020
  • Peer-review: October 2020-January 2021
  • Revisions: January-April 2021
  • Publication: Summer 2021

All articles will be double-blind peer-reviewed and may be written in English or French. They should be approximately 7000 words long.

Inquiries

Further information about submission guidelines is available at: http://jeunessejournal.ca/index.php/yptc/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions

Notes 

1 Adrienne Wood and Paula Niedenthal go further to argue that “laughter can function as a social reward that reinforces the behaviour of the recipient as a social soother that conveys nonthreat and affiliation, and as a social enforcer that asserts dominance or superiority” (2).

2 In a study of uses of scatalogical humour in children’s picture books, John McKenzie points out that “the bawdy is part of the underground world of children” (82).

3 See, for example, Ilona Papousek et al.’s study, which indicates that “the fear of other person’s laughter is associated with a functional configuration of the brain that leaves affected people less protected against social signals of anger and aggression” (66).

4 See Hackley et al.’s study of how laughter functions socially among young people in the UK. 

Works Cited

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and his World. 1965. Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Indiana University Press, 1984.

Bryant, Gregory, et al. “The Perception of Spontaneous and Volitional Laughter across 21 Societies.” Psychological Science, vol. 29, no. 9, 2018, pp. 1515-25.

Butler, Francelia. “Children’s Literature: The Bad Seed.” Signposts to Criticism of Children’s Literature, edited by Robert Bator, American Library Association, 1983, pp. 37-49.

Dyer, Richard. Only Entertainment. Routledge, 2002.

Ethofer, Thomas, et al. “Are You Laughing at Me? Neural Correlates of Social Intent Attribution to Auditory and Visual Laughter.” Hum Brain Mapp, vol. 41, 2020, pp. 353-61.

Hackley, Chris, et al. “Young Adults and ‘Binge’ Drinking: A Bakhtinian Analysis.” Journal of Marketing Management, vol. 29, no. 7-8, 2013, pp. 933-49.

McKenzie. “Bums, Poos and Wees: Carnivalesque Spaces in the Picture Books of Early Childhood. Or, Has Literature Gone to the Dogs?” English Teaching: Practice and Critique, vol. 4, no. 1, 2005, pp. 81-94.

Papousek, Ilona, et al. “The Fear of Other Person’s Laughter: Poor Neuronal Protection against Social Signals of Anger and Aggression.” Psychiatry Research, vol. 235, 2016, pp. 61-8.

Tallant, Laura. “Framing Young Children’s Humour and Practitioner Responses to it Using a Bakhtinian Carnivalesque Lens.” International Journal of Early Childhood, vol. 47, no. 2, 2015, pp. 251-66.

Walker, Gareth. “Young Children’s Use of Laughter as a Means of Responding to Questions.” Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 112, 2017, pp. 20-32.

Wood, Adrienne, and Paula Niedenthal. “Developing a Social Functional Account of Laughter.” Personal Psychol Compass, vol. 12, 2018, pp. 1-14.

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