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Title: No joke : theorising laughter from Charles Baudelaire to Arthur Koestler
Author: Sherlock, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 3345
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines the responses of several thinkers to the question of laughter according to a thematic division of critical concerns. A reflexive focus is adopted querying the diversity of such responses. Contextual assumptions are considered as crucially informing each individual interpretation. Laughter is here approached from three distinct perspectives each treated in three respective chapters. 1. ‘Laughter, Society and Play’ interrogates those border territories where laughter arises. Arthur Koestler here initiates an examination of laughter’s social or formal determinants which takes in alternative contributions from Henri Bergson and Wyndham Lewis. Helmuth Plessner’s work is then appropriated in order to situate this debate. It is proposed that the social role of laughter is best understood under the aspect of communal play. 2. In ‘Laughter and the Play of the Psyche’ Freud’s work traces a trajectory from the passivity of laughter to the agency of the instigator. The arousal of laughter is then read according to the grammatical persons as distinguished from discrete individuals. Freud recognises a latent infancy in laughter which is examined with respect to his ongoing thinking. Here a complex relationship between anticipation and imagination emerges from reading Freud’s early joke-book through his later considerations on play and phantasy. 3. ‘Laughter and Being in Play’ suggests that the adoption of a broadly comic or tragic paradigm will fundamentally inform laughter’s local reception. Charles Baudelaire’s thought is explored here as he proposes laughter to be symptomatic of both Original Sin and of prefigured redemption. In this context Hegel, Kierkegaard, Leopardi, de Man and Dante each provide individual perspectives on the intersection of laughter, guilt and redemption which is then treated in the light of Georges Bataille’s radical account of laughter as an encounter with the unknown.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Laughter