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Humor in the Service of Social Criticism in Iconic Examples from Four Filmic Traditions (United States, Spain, Mexico, and India)
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This dissertation is a critical comparative study of four distinguished cinematographic traditions, namely the USA, Spain, Mexico, and India, where their respective societies, politics, histories, and cultures form the relevant background. In such a context, humor in its varied forms acts as a potent catalyst to analyze, conjoin, and diversify the distinctive cultures to reiterate that its language is universal for making a serious comment. At the same time, it can create far-reaching societal awareness. It plays the role of a sturdy and compelling carrier in this dissertation as it channels the raw energy of the underdog and the picaresque. The dissertation contains four chapters that are dedicated to the USA and Charlie Chaplin; Spain and Luis Garcia Berlanga; Mexico and Mario Moreno Cantinflas; and India and Raj Kapoor; an introduction; and an epilogue. It is an attempt to observe, analyze, and infer the following: the Rabelaisian grotesque body of the Chaplinesque tramp, the Bakhtinian clown or the medieval wise-fool, the pícaro, and the plebeian communicate the underdog’s or the subaltern’s story in different cinematographic traditions where they act as representatives or channels of communication. They are the marginalized, subaltern figures who are portrayed playfully in the chosen gamut of films. Their on-screen actions and reactions are catalyzed and stylized by humor, the energetic and spirited agent, for rendering social commentary and criticism through a selected corpus of message movies of the twentieth century. The similarities and the differences that combine and diverge into distinct cinematic cultures are explored comprehensively to draw some comparative inferences via Humor Studies, and thus, a similar role of humor in the service of social criticism is substantiated in the selected cinematic traditions. Theories of Humor, Bakhtinian carnivalesque, Rabelaisian grotesque realism, and Valle-Inclanesque esperpento (grotesque) are used in the dissertation to strengthen the analysis and the argument and to underscore the social criticism. Gramscian Theories are used to some extent to reiterate the power struggle, resistance, and survival of the subaltern.
Byabartta, Debarati (2019). Humor in the Service of Social Criticism in Iconic Examples from Four Filmic Traditions (United States, Spain, Mexico, and India). Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from