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March 18, 2009 | by  | in Online Only |
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A Freudian Analysis of “Collective Groan Heard Whenever Mature Student Raises Hand” for Old Fuddy Duddies

According to Sigmund Freud in his work Jokes and their relation to the unconscious (1905), humour is derived when the conscious mind “[lets] in forbidden thoughts and feelings which society suppresses”(1). Humour therefore acts as a form of tension release—the feelings that have been suppressed by society and social norms are allowed to surface in an acceptable way, producing humour. As Aaron Smuts puts it:

The humorous involves a saving of emotional energy, since what might have been an emotion provoking situation turns out to be something we should treat non-seriously. The energy building up for the serious emotional reaction can then be released.“(2).

In Collective Groan Heard Whenever Mature Student Raises Hand (3), the author Michael Oliver derives his main source of humour through the parody and exaggeration of stereotypes. According to Wikipedia:

A stereotype is a preconceived idea that attributes certain characteristics (in general) to all the members of class or set. The term is often used with a negative connotation when referring to an oversimplified, exaggerated, or demeaning assumption that a particular individual possesses the characteristics associated with the class due to his or her membership in it.“(4)

For his article, the stereotype Oliver uses to derive humour from is the stereotype of ‘mature students’, as found in the culture of university students. The stereotype of mature students is used to describe older students of higher education, whose age and experience are seen to be an impairment to their learning, and even destructive to the learning of their younger fellow students—although studies into this have shown otherwise(5).
This stereotyping is clearly negative, therefore any feelings directed towards such stereotypes or stereotyping would be suppressed by societal norms. In order to derive humour from these associations through the desired ‘tension release’ effect, Oliver has had to do two things: Firstly, establish the writing as a work of fiction; and secondly, to invent a stereotyped character and situation that is extreme or even absurd.
As the writing is in the form of a news story, and is even located in the magazine in the news section, the piece has been placed in a news sub-section titled “In the Week that Wasn’t“. This sub-section is a regular occurence in the magazine, and is a play on “The Week that Was“, which is a commonly-used title for weekly news articles in modern journalism. The inclusion of the negation “not” in the sub-section’s title (as “wasn’t” is a contraction of “was not”) clearly indicates that the piece is a work of fiction, and also establishes it as a parody on news articles and whatever else may appear in the article, i.e, university culture. This satisfies the first requirement for the desired humourous effect.
The second requirement is then satisfied by Oliver in the article itself. He has written a story in which his mature student stereotype, Janet Sampson, disrupts a LAWS 121 class. Sampson frequently displays behaviour which can be seen as possessing extreme characteristics of both the stereotype of a mature student as well as that of an older person. Already the absurdity of the situation is seen in the second paragraph, when Oliver writes “…Sampson, 54, would not shut the fuck up about anything not connected to the subject being taught.” Her extreme (albeit fictional) behaviour indicative of a mature student stereotype is further indicated roughly halfway through the article, when it is said:

Ten minutes into the 90-minute lecture, she had already asked 13.5 questions. […] Seven related to the lecturer’s children, the motivation for each name, and whether or not they “ate their din dins.”

In addition, not only the behaviour of Oliver’s mature student stereotype indicates the article’s humour; it is also indicated by the behaviour of all other parties mentioned in the story: the students, Salient, and even the lecturer.
The students’ behaviour is characterised by extreme hatred and frustration towards Sampson. They say things such as “I’m gonna fuck you up, grandma”, and “DIE! JUST FUCKING DIE! HOLY GOD IN HEAVEN ROLL OVER AND DIE!”; Sampson is oblivious that these comments are directed at her until told by Salient.
Salient’s presence in the story is made when, for “…perhaps the only time [Salient] will dabble in anything remotely investigative, [we sent] along a volunteer to sit a row behind Mrs. Sampson…” Both the notion that such a story would be worth investigating, and the fact that it is said that it is a rare occurence of investigation, is clearly absurd, as Salient‘s weekly news reporting is both serious and investigative, as of almost any news reporting in any journalistic medium.
This extreme behaviour, combined with the extreme stereotyping and the indication that the writing is indeed fiction, lets the reader know that the situation is not serious, and is acceptable and okay to laugh at. The humour is therefore derived, according to Freud’s model, through released emotions the reader might feel in empathy or sympathy for the characters and events in the story, such as frustration or anger. All of this is combined to form an excellent humourous article that is both a parody of journalism and university culture.

References:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humour_in_Freud
2. http://www.iep.utm.edu/h/humor.htm
3. Collective Groan Heard Whenever Mature Student Raises Hand by Michael Oliver. Salient issue 2, 2009. Pg 15.
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype
5. Mature students in higher education: Academic performance and intellectual ability by John T. E. Richardson (http://www.springerlink.com/content/u7581m370x330418/)

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About the Author ()

Mikey learned everything he knows about English Grammar in an MSN chat room when he was 13. Believing that people don't say "LOL" enough in everyday conversation, he has made it his mission to teach the world about grammerz one person at a time.

Comments (36)

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  1. Jackson Wood says:

    For all those who question Salient‘s humour. Suck it hard.

  2. Indeed. The archetype of clueless mature student conflicting with teenagers who know everything is a dead giveaway.

  3. Michael Oliver says:

    Shut up, Janet Sampson is my best friend. I tell everybody about her.

  4. the ultimate hustler says:

    good stuff mikey!

  5. Sando says:

    I met a journalist who asked me to tell her how Janet was coping with University after the article was published. Asked me, if she’s contacted Salient in complaint. I had to convince her that she missed satire. God I hate people.

  6. Superior Mind says:

    It’s hard to know when people are being serious; I thought that all this taking offence to Michael’s story was all a big joke! Ha ha! Hee! But no it seems that people actually do need explanations to find obvious satire funny – or at least to be able to understand it. I suppose that’s kind of funny in itself.

  7. old fuddy duddy says:

    Thank you for that, its all clear now. You have sexual fantasies about your dear old mum! Please, please do NOT tell the poor woman about this, the shock may be too much for her.
    It also explains why you used the word ‘fuck’ so often.
    It also explains why so many of you young sprouty sprout sprouts come on to me.
    Cheers

  8. Moomama says:

    Well you could at least pretend that your not a bloody expert on everything like because you have leard responsibility coz you take the course seriously blah blah

    Why dont they have a special university for mature students. They could share muffins and talk about the serious changes they make in their lives and their sacrifices for their children and then maybe they could find some time to stop making excuses about not studying and actually do what they shouda done 50 years ago!!!!

  9. Who are you, and what have you done with Moomama? I was beginning to find the painful non sequiters reassuring, and now you’ve even taken those away from me.

  10. Phoenix says:

    Nice, Mikey. Though the fact that the intended humour needs to be explained is pretty bad, aren’t we at a University for crying out loud? Perhaps people were too hung over on Monday morning to notice the obvious satire… Oh well, rest assured there are some (minority though we apparently are…) who appreciate the potential lols

  11. I’m in LAWS 121. The lecturer made a disclaimer before the lecture that followed this article. So ridiculous. I kan haz senz of humurz plz?

  12. Amy says:

    Really, the blatant Onion-ripoff style didn’t tip people off?

  13. Jackson Wood says:

    People are stupid. The unwavering human constant.

  14. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Amy: The Onion is covering mature students in Vic Uni LAWS121? Wow.

  15. Amy, are you goku_karori_28 by any chance?

  16. Sando says:

    Amy do you want to be my facebook wife?

  17. Amy says:

    Shitkicker: Yes, ‘cos I totally said “content”, not “style”.

    Michael: No, although I did spend my formative first five years in Karori.

    Sando: I don’t believe in facebook marriage – maybe a facebook civil union…

  18. Superior Mind says:

    I’m writing this on a bus on my phone! How entertaining the advances of the mobile phone age are! Also I’m drunk!

  19. Heather Duplessy says:

    Who turned off commenting on the Kia Ora Khalid site?

  20. Shitkicker says:

    So anyway, Kia Ora Khalid totally sucked.

    PS I heard Amy swallows

  21. Amy says:

    I do. It’s a novel way of getting masticated food from my mouth to my stomach.

  22. Guy says:

    Superior Mind, dude, are you driving the bus?
    Nice one Amy, I am eating some sprouty-sprout-sprouts, which I will soon swallow. These are hyphenated sprouts because they are not GM

  23. smackdown says:

    amy ur post was missing 1 word right at the end:

    “smirk”

  24. Benevolence is Fury says:

    Soooooo, does Janet Sampson really exist? I’m maaaaaaaaaaaaaad lost!

  25. smackdown says:

    she exists in our hearts

  26. Sando says:

    And in our lectures.

  27. Liam Nub says:

    Can you explain what your issue is with mature students? Some people have the unfortunate luck of being made redundant and they’re forced to retrain in another field. You should be supporting their desire to improve themselves, not taking chunks out of them because you, or someone close to you, may well be in their position down the track.

    I use a Dictaphone to record my lectures and make my own notes at home, which gives me three repetitions and three different types of learning, the lecture (visual + auditory), the recording (auditory) + writing (visual + kinaesthetic) which puts all of this information into long-term memory. I hope that helps someone :)

  28. owen says:

    Mature students are obvious cos they can never stay on topic.

  29. Liam Nub says:

    I don’t put my hand up in class because I don’t want people to think I’m a plonker

  30. owen says:

    Mature students are obvious cos they always use really old fashioned words.

  31. Liam Nub says:

    Where do you get off saying codswallop like that, eh?

  32. Natalie says:

    Why is it 18 year old’s straight out of high school think that there so grown up now?? Get a grip and a life and stop putting people down who are only trying to further their education just like you!! Yes mature students are a pain in the ass but so are yonger people who have no life experience but think they do.

  33. smackdown says:

    hey natalie why are you such a stupid bitch huh

  34. Natalie says:

    is that all you have to say? I take it your one of the school leavers jumping around like a little puppy all excited now your in the real world

  35. Food for thought from Natalie and Smackdown, thank you.

  36. Anna says:

    Oh yeah totally – it’s like when I make jokes about how those maoris are so lazy and stupid, and then one comes up to me all offended, and I’m like “chill, Hemi, it’s satire. One of my people’s great gifts to yours”. Lazy, stupid, AND ungrateful. Sometimes you just can’t win.

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