Lecturer to explore Mark Twain's humor

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Melissa Osgood
Jennifer Greenhill

“The human race has only one really effective weapon, and this is laughter,” said Mark Twain.

Art historian Jennifer Greenhill’s lecture, “Joke Matter: Materialities of Humor From Mark Twain to Glenn Ligon,” will explore the efforts of late-19th-century critics to categorize humor and the challenges posed to these frameworks by multimedia artists such as Twain. Greenhill’s talk, the Ruth Woolsey Findley and William Nichols Findley History of Art Lecture, will be held March 8, at 5 p.m. in G22 Goldwin Smith Hall.

In her talk, Greenhill will look at ways in which Twain can be read as a visual humorist, and she will offer related examples by contemporary artists such as Glenn Ligon, with his recent video installation devoted to the stand-up comedy of Richard Pryor, “Live.”

Greenhill is associate professor of art history at the University of Southern California. She specializes in 19th- and early 20th-century American art and visual culture. Her first book is “Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age”; her current project is “The Commercial Imagination.” She received a master's degree in history of art from Williams College/Clark Art Institute Graduate Program in 2000 and a doctorate in history of art from Yale University in 2007.

The Ruth Woolsey Findley ’39 and William Nichols Findley History of Art Lecture Series was created in 1999 to bring distinguished and inspiring scholars to campus annually to give presentations, lead discussions on current art history issues and research methods, and interact with students and faculty members. Findley and her husband have supported undergraduate scholarships for art and art history students and renovation of the History of Art Gallery.

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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