Laughter and power are here examined in a variety of contexts, ranging from the satires of Renaissance Humanism through to the polemics of contemporary journalism. How do the powerful use laughter as a cultural weapon which reinforces their position? How do the powerless use laughter as a last resort in their self-defence? Sixteenth-century intellectuals applied their satires to a campaign against intolerance. Seventeenth-century absolutism demanded of comedy that it serve its interests. Yet subversive humour survived, even at the court, and led through the Enlightenment to its apogee in the black humour of Sade. Twentieth-century experimental fiction owes that trend a conscious debt. Meanwhile an aesthetic tradition, represented here by Flaubert, Beckett and Queneau, incites a laughter which releases tension rather than raising awareness. As humour theorists, Bergson, Freud and Koestler help focus these concerns.
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2006. 256 pp.
Contents: John Parkin/John Phillips: Foreword – Gaëtan Brulotte: Laughing at Power – Barbara Bowen: Obscure Men and Smelly
Goats in Neo-Latin Satire – Elizabeth Woodrough: Molière, The Mufti and the Monarch: Laughter and Stage Spectacle in Le
Bourgeois gentilhomme – John Phillips: ‘Laugh? I nearly died!’ Humour in Sade’s Fiction – Walter Redfern: A Little Bird
Tells Us: Parrots in Flaubert, Queneau, Beckett (and Tutti Quanti) – John Parkin: The Power of Laughter: Koestler on
Bergson and Freud – John Phillips: ‘L’insoutenable légèreté du rire’: Laughter and Power in Milan Kundera’s La Lenteur
and Vivant Denon’s Point de Lendemain – John Parkin: Doinel dominé: Sexual Humour in Truffaut’s Antoine cycle –
Patrick Corcoran: Black Humour: La Vie et demie de Sony Labou Tansi – Jane Weston: Charlie Hebdo and Joyful