The Spirituality of Comedy: Comic Heroism in a Tragic World / Edition 1

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Overview

To understand comedy is to understand humanity, for the comic sense is central to what it means to be human. Nearly all the major issues with which human beings have exercised themselves are touched upon in some manner by the comic spirit. Yet education in the art of comedy and in comic appreciation is given little attention in most societies. The Spirituality of Comedy explores the wisdom of comedy and the comic answer to tragedy (in both popular and classical senses of the term). Tragedy is seen as a fundamental problem of human existence, while comedy is its counterweight and resolution.

Conrad Hyers has taken a fresh look at comedy from the standpoint of comparative mythology and religion, and thus at comedy's spiritual significance. He maintains that the ability to see the humor in things, to create comic tales and rituals, is among the most imaginative and profound of all human achievements. Comedy interrupts the tragic seriousness with which we take ourselves, our values and beliefs, and introduces a different spirit and larger vision of life. Comic figures, even when making an appearance in great literature and drama, debunk human greatness and grandeur and mock heroic attempts. In his unique study of the comic tradition, Hyers explains the difficulty in pinning down themes, structures, plots, or characters that are common to all comedy. Instead he argues that there is an essence of comedy in the area of pattern. He draws upon the rich historical ensemble of types of comic figures, with a chapter devoted to each: the humorist, comedian, comic hero, rogue, trickster, clown, fool, underdog, and simpleton. He shows how each type incarnates a comic heroism in its own unique manner, offering a profound wisdom and philosophy of life.

The approach of this book is broadly interdisciplinary, with materials and interpretations introduced from the various fields of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences as they illuminate both the tragic and comic sensibilities. The methodological thread that draws this all together is an analysis of the major types of comic figures in terms of the myths and legends associated with them, the rituals they produce and enact, and the symbolism of the comic figures themselves. Written in a very readable literary style, will appeal to psychologists, social scientists, clergy, philosophers, and students of literature.

Conrad Hyers is professor of the history of religions at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. He is the author of many books on humor, including The Laughing Buddgha, And God Created Laughter, and Zen and the Comic Spirit

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560002185
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Comic Hero With A Thousand Faces 1
1 Tragic Weights And Comic Balances - The Tragic Hero 15
2 The Agony And The Golden Mean - The Comic Hero 33
3 Tragic Castles And Comic Cottages - The Rogue 49
4 A Voice Laughing In The Wilderness - The Humorist 69
5 Will The Real Adam And Eve Please Stand Up? - The Comedian 95
6 Jester To The Kingdoms Of Earth - The Fool 111
7 Putting Humpty-Dumpty Together Again - The Clown 131
8 A Happy Ending Of Sorts - The Underdog 157
9 Wandering Within The Great Food-Chain Of Being - The Trickster 173
10 Between Dreams And Dust - The Simpleton 197
Epilogue: Education as Fun and the Fall into Serious Work - The Player 217
Notes 229
Index 237
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