Charlie Hebdo centre stage at Humour Conference

The renowned Australian cartoonist, Bruce Petty, who drew the 'Adelaide' cartoon, above, will play a key role at the conference.
The renowned Australian cartoonist, Bruce Petty, who drew the ‘Adelaide’ cartoon, above, will take a leading role at the conference.

Flinders University will host the 21st Australasian Humour Studies Network Annual Conference from 4-6 February at the State Library of South Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace.

Highlights include a panel discussing humour in relation to the recent Charlie Hebdo murders in France. This is one of two events open to the public, although bookings are essential in both cases.

The first event, from 4-5.30pm this Thursday (5 February), will see a panel including the renowned Australian cartoonist Bruce Petty discuss humour in relation to the murders – and what happens when some people don’t find certain kinds of humorous expression funny.

The recent brutal killings of a number of the Charlie Hebdo magazine’s key staff, including some of their most experienced, high profile satirical cartoonists, has given rise to a good deal of debate about the limits or otherwise of (humorous) expression.

On that theme, sessions at the conference will include:  Charlie Hebdo – humour, politics and the art of provocation – where to draw the line?Can’t take a joke? The etymology and practice of “piss-taking”; and Pragmatic issues in examining the perception of aggressive humour.

The second, connected, event will be the conference’s keynote address, beginning at 5.30 pm on Thursday 5th February in the Radford Auditorium of the Art Gallery of South Australia. Bruce Petty is to be the keynote speaker, and he will be drawing live on stage as he speaks about his cartooning oeuvre.

The conference has been organised by Flinders University’s Dr Christine Nicholls with colleagues Associate Professor Robert Phiddian, Dr Colette Mrowa-Hopkins and Dr Antonella Strambi.

Other participating academics include the noted humour scholar Dr Jessica Milner-Davis, and dystopian literature expert Associate Professor Peter Marks, both from the University of Sydney; and Dr Chloe A Gill-Khan from the University of South Australia, whose academic field includes consideration of comparative philosophical traditions, especially the European and the Islamic, and linguist Professor Cliff Goddard from Griffith University.

Other sessions include: Putting words in their mouths: Granularity and humour targets in a photo caption competition, by Dr Mike Lloyd, from Victoria University of Wellington, and The king playing the fool: Play and interplay between Australian politicians and satirists, by Rebecca Higgie from Curtin University.

Conference organiser Dr Christine Nicholls said it was an opportunity to explore the multiple expressions and dimensions of humour in a serious academic context, while having a great collegial experience.

“Mahatma Gandhi is on record as saying that if he hadn’t had a sense of humour from the beginning, he would have committed suicide at a very young age”, said Dr Nicholls, “while Francis Bacon asserted that, ‘Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humour to console him for what he is’.

“But maybe for the final word, we should turn to the immortal lines of that literary paragon, Dr. Seuss: ‘From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere’. ”

More information, abstracts, speaker profiles and event program can be found here.

To book for the Charlie Hebdo panel or the Bruce Petty keynote address, please email Joy Tennant or Christine Nicholls. Please note, reservations are essential.

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