Comedy: "An Essay on Comedy" by George Meredith. "Laughter" by Henri Bergson / Edition 1

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Johns Hopkins University Press


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Comedy: "An Essay on Comedy" by George Meredith. "Laughter" by Henri Bergson / Edition 1

"Laughter makes us human" is the theme of these two classic works, one by the English novelist George Meredith, the other by the celebrated French philosopher Henri Bergson. Written some hundred years ago, largely in response to what their authors saw as the dehumanization of man in the industrial age, the essays still convey great sense and significance today.

Casting a critical eye on comic works throughout the ages, Meredith finds that the most skilled masters of the comic art--Aristophanes, Rabelais, Voltaire, Cervantes, Fielding Moliere--used comedy to grasp the essence of humanity. Comedy, according to Meredith's theory, serves an important moral and social function: it redeems us from our posturings, stripping away pride, arrogance, complacency, and other sins.

Bergson's essay looks at comedy within a wider field of vision, focusing on laughter and on what makes us laugh. His study examines comic characters and comic acts, comedy in literature and in children's games, comedy as high art and base entertainment, to develop a psychological and philosophical theory of the mainsprings of comedy.

Complementing the work of Meredith and Bergson is Wylie Sypher's appendix, an essay that discusses comedy and the underlying comic structure in both anthropological and literary contexts. Sypher offers an enlightening discussion of the relationship between comedy and tragedy and their link with the ritual purging of evil from a society by means of a scapegoat. He then goes on to examine the guises of the comic hero in such figures as the Wife of Bath, Don Quixote, and Falstaff, relating them to such great tragic figures as Oedipus, Faust, and Hamlet.

Through the many perspectives it offers, Comedy will appeal not only to students of literature and literary criticism, but to those studying philosophy and history as well.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801823275
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 04/01/1980
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

An Essay on Comedy3
I.The Comic in General61
The Comic Element in Forms and Movements74
Expansive Force of the Comic84
II.The Comic Element in Situations and the Comic Element in Words104
III.The Comic in Character146
AppendixThe Meanings of Comedy
I.Our New Sense of the Comic193
II.The Ancient Rites of Comedy214
III.The Guises of the Comic Hero226
IV.The Social Meanings of Comedy241
Bibliographical Note259

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