Book Section
A trio of themes recur across prominent Western theories of laughter: violence, the human/nonhuman, and error. The paper traces this trio through a series of frequently cited paradigms for understanding laughter, including superiority, incongruity and relief theories, Henri Bergson’s theory of laughter and V. S. Ramachandran’s false alarm theory; and argues that it reflects a shared, if partially submerged concern with the instability and demise of a particular figure of the human, one that is circumscribed by the culturally specific (if globally influential) values of Eurocentric/Western thought, largely corresponding to Sylvia Wynter’s ‘Man’. This suggests that laughter has an ambiguous immanent potential for both undermining and/or reasserting, de- and/or restabilising the illusion of Man’s universalizing drive to identify itself with the human per se.
Title
The Animal That Laughs at Itself
Subtitle
False False Alarms about the End of ‘Man’
Author(s)
James Burton
Identifier
Description
A trio of themes recur across prominent Western theories of laughter: violence, the human/nonhuman, and error. The paper traces this trio through a series of frequently cited paradigms for understanding laughter, including superiority, incongruity and relief theories, Henri Bergson’s theory of laughter and V. S. Ramachandran’s false alarm theory; and argues that it reflects a shared, if partially submerged concern with the instability and demise of a particular figure of the human, one that is circumscribed by the culturally specific (if globally influential) values of Eurocentric/Western thought, largely corresponding to Sylvia Wynter’s ‘Man’. This suggests that laughter has an ambiguous immanent potential for both undermining and/or reasserting, de- and/or restabilising the illusion of Man’s universalizing drive to identify itself with the human per se.
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
September 20, 2022
Subject
Laughter
Anthropology
Violence
Error
Humour
Laughter in motion pictures
Laughter in literature
Posthumanism
Bergson, Henri
Rights
© by the author(s)
Except for images or otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Harvested
yes
Language
en-GB
short title
The Animal That Laughs at Itself
page start
49
page end
74
Source
Errans: Going Astray, Being Adrift, Coming to Nothing, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey and Arnd Wedemeyer, Cultural Inquiry, 24 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2022), pp. 49–74