Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL3258: The Politics of Humour

This module descriptor refers to the 2022/3 academic year.


NQF Level 6
Credits 30 ECTS Value 15
Term(s) and duration

This module will run during term 1 (11 weeks) and term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Ross Carroll (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


Ridicule, humour, and satire are everywhere in our contemporary public sphere and especially in political debate. This explosion in the political use of humour has been welcomed by some as an antidote to hypocrisy, conceitedness, and even authoritarianism. Others, however, have highlighted the worrying potential of ridicule to demean, humiliate, or debase its object and distract its audience. In this module we will explore the politics of humour by drawing on resources in philosophy, psychology, and history. We will explore questions like the following: What makes humour sociable in some instances and uncivil in others? Is comedy always politically subversive or does it dissipate energies that might otherwise be directed towards resistance or protest? Is ridicule ethically defensible in debate and what limits (if any) should be placed on it? Students taking this module will learn to critically assess political humour, learn to watch comedy with an eye to its political potential, and even compose satires themselves.   

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