An article by ISHS Vice-President Bernard Schweizer, “When Religion Is No Laughing Matter,” features in the most recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Schweizer discusses the resistance his students exhibited to the readings in his course on literature containing heretical and blasphemous humor. An elective course that clearly stated the nature of its course material, it was primarily populated by students of faith who apparently found the premise intriguing. Nevertheless, when actually confronted with such irreverence, students balked:
[T]heir resistance to the subversive and irreverent tone of several core texts could not be successfully compensated for by the cognitive benefits that they were reaping from the course. The fact that they had to absorb irreverence in a context of laughter added to the challenge. I suspect that laughter and comedy had been so positively connotated for them that they could not adjust their expectations to see comedy as a means of critique and laughter as a subversive weapon rather than simply a feel-good mechanism.
Schweizer’s classroom experiences lead him into broader reflections about the current state of intellectual close-mindedness, especially on matters of religion, that trouble college campuses today, and on the civic value of humor as an anti-authoritarian force. It’s a thoughtful piece, and can be read in full on the Chronicle website or in the May 6 print version.