Session #3 - On Laughter
Henri Bergson, Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic (Dover, 2005)
Georges Bataille, The Unfinished System of Non-knowledge (Minnesota Press, 2001)
Alenka Zupancic, The Odd One In: On Comedy (MIT Press, 2008)
Helene Cixous, "Laugh of the Medusa"
"Let us suppose that that which induces laughter is not only unknown, but unknowable. There is still one possibility to be considered. That which is laughable may simply be the unknowable. In other words, the unknown nature of the laughable would be not accidental, but essential. We would laugh, not for some reason which, due to lack of information, or of sufficient penetration, we shall never manage to know, but because the unknown makes us laugh." Bataille, p. 90.
(Laughter as rupture, as breaking the surface, as putting forth the unforeseen, the limits of knowing: to reintroduce the rapturous)
Laughter and Tears: Sam Taylor Wood, "Hysteria"
"Laughter appears to stand in need of an echo. Listen to it carefully: it is not an articulate, clear, well-defined sound; it is something which would fain be prolonged by reverberating from one to another, something beginning with a crash, to continue in successive rumblings, like thunder in a mountain. Still, this reverberation cannot go on forever. It can travel within as wide a circle as you please: the circle remains, none the less, a closed one. Our laugher is always the laughter of a group." Bergson, p. 3.
"Laughter must answer to certain requirements of life in common. It must have a social signification." Bergson, p. 4.
The involuntary: mishap, tripping up, to err (clowning): to laugh at the other.
Lack of elasticity (rigidity) in contrast to the "living pliableness of a human being".
"Society will therefore be suspicious of all inelasticity of character, of mind and even of body, because it is the possible sign of a slumbering activity as well as of an activity with separatist tendencies, that inclines to swerve from the common center round which society gravitates: in short, because it is a sign of an eccentricity." Bergson, p. 10.
(Chaplin, Modern Times – the dysfunctional worker)
"This rigidity is the comic, and laughter is the corrective". Bergson, p. 10.
(Question the particular politics of Bergson's position)
"Any image, then, suggestive of the notion of a society disguising itself, or of a social masquerade, so to speak, will be laughable. Now, such a notion is formed when we perceive anything inert or stereotyped, or simply ready-made, on the surface of living society. There we have rigidity over again, clashing with the inner suppleness of life. There ceremonial side of social life must, therefore, always include a latent comic element, which is only waiting for an opportunity to burst into full view." Bergson, p. 22.
Masquerading as a performance that disrupts the particular order by introducing an ambiguous body. (see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble)