Job as a work of Laughtears and Learning: Comedy, Pain and Audience Empathy
Katherine E. Southwood, University of Oxford, and James W. Southwood, Specialist Clinical Psychologist, NHS England.
Contemplating the ideas of Job and comedy in the same sentence, if this is even possible, will inevitably raise questions regarding genre and tone. In this article, we will initially discuss the reasons why resistance might emerge to the idea of comedy in Job. We will then go on to consider various theories concerning comedy. Finally, we will explore the ways in which comedy is helpful for analyzing and interpreting Job. The key contribution of this article is to highlight how comedy helps audiences to recognize the lack of empathy in the advice given to Job by his friends and reveals the problematic nature of their retribution-centered advice. This is an important and instructive pedagogical tool for audiences: through the swift changes between what is deeply tragic and what is comedic, the audience’s emotional engagement with Job increases. Through watching the friends’ lack of empathy, the audience have the pedagogical space to call into question their own attitudes and values when faced with the pain of others. This opens up a space for the audience’s self-reflection and growth by enabling them to critique, rather than assume the authority of, well-established traditions. It opens up space for the audience’s subjectivity and for attunement towards recognizing the pain of others.
Job, comedy, pain, genre, tone