A History of English Laughter: Laughter from Beowulf to Beckett and Beyond

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Manfred Pfister
Rodopi, 2002 - Literary Criticism - 201 pages
Is there a 'history' of laughter? Or isn't laughter an anthropological constant rather and thus beyond history, a human feature that has defined humanity ashomo ridens from cave man and cave woman to us? The contributors to this collection of essays believe that laughter does have a history and try to identify continuities and turning points of this history by studying a series of English texts, both canonical and non-canonical, from Anglosaxon to contemporary. As this is not another book on the history of the comic or of comedy it does not restrict itself to comic genres; some of the essays actually go out of their way to discover laughter at the margins of texts where one would not have expected it all – in Beowulf, or Paradise Lost or the Gothic Novel. Laughter at the margins of texts, which often coincides with laughter from the margins of society and its orthodoxies, is one of the special concerns of this book. This goes together with an interest in 'impure' forms of laughter – in laughter that is not the serene and intellectually or emotionally distanced response to a comic stimulus which is at the heart of many philosophical theories of the comic, but emotionally disturbed and troubled, aggressive and transgressive, satanic and sardonic laughter. We do not ask, then, what is comic, but: who laughs at and with whom where, when, why, and how?

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Contents

Andrew James Johnston
17
Indira Ghose
35
Werner von Koppenfels
57
Ute Berns
83
Merle Tönnies
99
Tobias Döring
121
Jeremy Lane
137
Renate Brosch
153
Manfred Pfister
175
Index
191
Copyright

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Page 61 - Now awful beauty puts on all its arms; The fair each moment rises in her charms, Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace, And calls forth all the wonders of her face; Sees by degrees a purer blush arise, And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
Page 62 - Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer; Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault and hesitate dislike...
Page 63 - Gen'rous converse ; a soul exempt from pride ; And love to praise, with reason on his side? Such once were Critics ; such the happy few, Athens and Rome in better ages knew.
Page 62 - Peace to all such ! but were there one whose fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires; Blest with each talent and each art to please, And born to write, converse, and live with ease : Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne...
Page 49 - The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
Page 169 - Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language. But it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without any of parody's ulterior motives, amputated of the satiric impulse, devoid of laughter and of any conviction that alongside the abnormal tongue you have momentarily borrowed, some healthy linguistic normality still exists.
Page 61 - A heav'nly image in the glass appears, To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears ; Th' inferior priestess, at her altar's side, Trembling begins the sacred rites of pride. Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here...
Page 78 - He gave the little wealth he had, To build a house for fools and mad: And showed by one satiric touch, No nation wanted it so much: That kingdom he hath left his debtor, I wish it soon may have a better.
Page 50 - This is dispensed ; and what surmounts the reach Of human sense I shall delineate so, By likening spiritual to corporal forms, As may express them best ; though what if earth Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein Each to other like, more than on earth is thought...

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