Bernard  Schweizer Author of Evaluating Organization Development
FEATURED AUTHOR

Bernard Schweizer

Professor Emeritus of English
Long Island University

Bernard Schweizer is a Swiss-American scholar and writer known for path-breaking work on boundary-pushing literature. His fascination with literary rebels led him to write books on eccentric English travel writers, on "misotheists" (believers who hate their God), and on the British feminist icon Rebecca West. In his most recent book, he traces the astonishing story of humor's progressive expansion under Christianity, as irreverent comedy both troubled religiosity and enriched Western culture.

Subjects: Literature, Religion

Biography

Bernard Schweizer was fortunate to turn his life's passions into an academic career. These passions center around traveling, feminism, heterodoxy, and comedy--all ideas defined by a desire to transgress established norms and break with familiar conventions. Schweizer's first book, Radicals on the Road, explored the politically motivated travels of eccentric writers like George Orwell, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh. His next book revived the legacy of British feminist iconoclast Rebecca West. He then went on to write a monograph about the paradoxical phenomenon of "misotheism," i.e. passionate belief in a hateful God. And now, in his most recent book, Christianity and the Triumph of Humor, Schweizer advances a powerful free-speech argument in favor of all kinds of comedy, including irreverent humor. Conceptually, Schweizer argues that religion naturally attracts humor. Historically and culturally, he demonstrates that humor was able to conquer all conceivable Christian taboos while delivering significant artistic and intellectual benefits.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    • Humor studies: specifically the connection between humor appreciation and religious belief.
    • Heresy studies: notably how literature challenges and redefines all kinds of doctrines, including religious norms.
    • Gender studies: in particular the models and scripts of female heroism employed in women's epics.
    • Travel studies: the way in which travel writers see the world through a political lens and use their writings from abroad to further certain ideologies.

Personal Interests

    • Wherever I go, a book is never far from my reach. I enjoy compelling non-fiction, especially travel writing, as well as Western and non-Western fiction, including Japanese and Chinese stories by writers such as Yu Hua and Haruki Murakami. Among my regular magazines are The Baffler, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Free Inquiry, and The Atlantic.
    • Music: I love blues, jazz, and rock music, with a sprinkling of urban folk. Van Morrison is my musical god.
    • Art & Culture: The first thing I do in every city is to explore the local art museums, galleries, and sculpture gardens. I'm a fan of sculpture in general, and of glass art in particular.
    • Traveling: I've been to over 50 countries and hope to expand my horizons further. Mountain hiking is one of my greatest joys.

Books

Featured Title
 Featured Title - Christianity and the Triumph of Humor: Schweizer - 1st Edition book cover

Articles

Free Inquiry

Social Science Research Supports Free Speech Take on "Offensive" Humor


Published: Jan 01, 2019 by Free Inquiry
Authors: Bernard Schweizer

This article argues that comical offensiveness is not a clear-cut matter with perpetrators and victims neatly separated. Those who seek to regulate humor in order to prevent it giving offense are misunderstanding both the dynamics of humor and the nature of offensiveness. Using empirical data and statistical analysis, this article takes a free speech approach to argue against censoring humor.

European Journal of Humor Research

Does Religion Shape People’s Sense of Humor? A Comparative Study of Humor Appreciation Among Members of Different Religions and Nonbelievers


Published: May 01, 2018 by European Journal of Humor Research
Authors: Bernard Schweizer & Karl-Heinz Ott
Subjects: Media and Cultural Studies, Anthropology - Soc Sci

Using an empirical approach, this study addresses the question whether followers of different religious beliefs (Christians, Muslims, and Hindus), as well as Atheists and Agnostics manifest different senses of humour when rating a variety of jokes. The study further investigates whether one’s religious background influences the threshold of what is considered offensive. And finally, it seeks to answer whether jokes targeting religions other than one’s own are always perceived as funnier.

HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research

Faith and Laughter: Do Atheists and Practicing Christians Have Different Senses of Humor?


Published: Aug 01, 2016 by HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research
Authors: Bernard Schweizer & Karl-Heinz Ott
Subjects: Media and Cultural Studies, Religion, Anthropology - Soc Sci

This study analyzes the reactions of practicing Christians and atheists to various kinds of humorous materials. The goal was to determine whether the presence or absence of Christian belief serves as a predictor for humor appreciation, specifically whether practicing Christians appreciate certain types of humor more (or less) than atheists do.

Chronicle of Higher Education Review

When Religion is no Laughing Matter


Published: Jan 05, 2016 by Chronicle of Higher Education Review
Authors: Bernard Schweizer

This reflective essay looks back on the experience of teaching a college course about religious comedy. It discusses the challenges faced by the students and the instructor and ponders the reasons for the students' resistance to the assigned literary texts by Boccaccio, Twain, Anatole France, James Morrow, Ron Currie, Jr., and others.