At the source of humour in Savonlinna

The 12th International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter held at the Savonlinna Campus on 2–7 July 2012 approaches humour from a variety of different perspectives. The topics covered include, among others, cultural aspects relating to humour and laughter, humour therapy, the importance of history in the understanding of ethnic jokes, humour in early childhood, and humour in visual arts and music.

The objective of the 12th International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter is to bring together beginners and advanced researchers of humour and laughter. The week-long programme often results in long-lasting friendships and fruitful collaboration in the field of humour studies. The summer school has attracted some 40 participants – students, graduates and established researchers – from all over the world.

“The summer school is an excellent training and get together opportunity for the field’s researchers and students. A particular aim of the summer school is to promote the field,” says Professor Pirjo Nuutinen, one of the local organisers.

“Humour is an important topic of research because humour as such is a very interesting product of the human mind. Humour is something we are able to produce both unintentionally and intentionally, and the understanding of humour demonstrates certain type of intelligence. Humour is something that unexpectedly deviates from what we consider normal, resulting in an absurd experience. It has been said that humour is pain that doesn’t hurt. It is very difficult to give an exact definition of humour, and this is why it is such an interesting topic of research. I find it's always interesting to go beyond things that we take for granted,” says Professor Pirjo Nuutinen, whose own studies address the relationship between humour and pedagogy.

At the moment, humour studies as an academic discipline is experiencing a boom and the field's findings can be applied in, e.g. health care and psychology. The topics of research are often current and of general interest, e.g. Internet humour, humour in the context of school bullying, humour in stand up comedy, and ethnic humour.

What makes children laugh?

One of the summer school participants, Lecturer Timo Laes of the University of Turku, Department of Teacher Education in Rauma, has studied children’s conceptions of humour. In his study, children aged 3–7 were asked to draw and explain what they find funny.

“Children’s drawings are very honest and especially in younger children, there really isn’t much self-censorship,” he says.

The things children find funny range from individual funny events to toilet humour at a more general level. “A typical feature of children’s humour is a certain sense of absurdity: they combine things which seemingly do not fit together. For instance, a child can talk about a ‘chickenpox boat’ or tell how ‘a horse is riding a person’,” Lecturer Laes explains.


Text: Maj Vuorre Photo: Varpu Heiskanen

 

Publishing year: 2012

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