"Death Hilarious": The Humor of Combat and the American Wars on Terror

Pinkston, Grant, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Railton, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia

Soldiers in combat situations are exposed to the prospect of death or debilitation in a myriad of ways and at a much greater frequency than most civilian professions. I intend to review wartime accounts from American soldiers in the Wars on Terror (Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom) to ascertain what soldiers found humorous in these incredibly stressful life-or-death situations. The purpose of this research is to better understand the role humor plays in combat, including how humor helps combat personnel process their situation, particularly in relation to one another, the enemy, military leadership, and personnel (family, friends, politicians, etc.) back home. The intent is to understand trends and also to see how humor has evolved, as well as factors responsible for that evolution, through exposure to conflict in contemporary unconventional and asymmetrical warfare.

MA (Master of Arts)
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