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Wednesday, October 13, 2010


My paper (“The Buildup to the Iraq War as Farce”) for the ISAC/ISSS conference in Providence is complete.

Based on the literature I reviewed in the section, here's my summary paragraph about farce:
A farce is a fast-paced and outrageous story featuring characters that freely employ hyperbole and make nonsensical claims about their situation. Protagonists and antagonists can often be described as reckless fools or devious knaves, though the regular instances of mistaken identity may blur the distinction for members of the audience. Frequently, the threat of physical violence or aggression looms over the story.
Hopefully, I've demonstrated that the buildup to the Iraq war can readily be viewed as farce.

The paper also gives some attention to critic Eric Bentley's "comic catharsis" thesis. Here's an old (March 10, 1961) story from the Harvard Crimson, published after a Bentley campus forum:
Bentley pointed out that by picturing an absurd situation, farce fulfills repressed wishes, although in disguise. "The contrast is between tone and context: the actor threatens murder in a playful tone, but the murderous wishes are true. Farce is a dialogue between aggressiveness and flippancy."

Farce cannot function without this aggressiveness. Bentley stated. He agreed with Freud that innocent jokes do not make us laugh. "We want satire, obscenity, and attack."
Obviously, the buildup to the Iraq war seemed pretty serious at the time, but I think much can be revealed and learned by reading it as farce. I'll try to have a link to the paper next week.

Update: I put a copy on Google Docs.

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