Human interactions are often marked by attempts at humor—serving to establish superiority through exclusion, provide relief from limits or surprise through incongruity. Luther College Professor Emeritus of communication studies Alan Lerstrom will examine the nature of humor in a presentation at 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, in the Mott Room of the Dahl Centennial Union as part of the Luther Emeriti Colloquium series.
The presentation "Humor in Everyday Conversation" is open to the public with no charge for admission.
While much of the research about humor has focused on carefully crafted comments, humor often occurs spontaneously with little planning or reflection. Lerstrom will address the "powerful rhetorical device" of humor as it functions in daily social interactions.
An exclusive feature of humor as compared to other communications is the response expected of the listener. The listener receives multiple layers of subtle meaning embedded by irony and is forced to think more deeply when a joke connects to a broader conversational context. Thus, amusement helps mold identities, "creating alternative definitions of reality and reinterpreting past events," Lerstrom said.
Lerstrom taught in the communication studies department at Luther College from 1988 to 2011. He received a Bachelor of Science in speech from Illinois State University and returned for a master's degree in theatre. He later completed a Ph.D. program in communication studies at the University of Kansas. Lerstrom has written for state, regional and national journals and served on the National Communication Association, the Central States Communication Association and the Iowa Communication Association.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.