Maria's Reviews > Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic

Laughter by Henri Bergson
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Jun 02, 12


When I keep focused on how Bergson's thought on laughter and the comic fits in with the rest of his philosophy, this book seems interesting and creative. When I read it as just another theory of the comic, it seems narrow and heavy-handed.

There's a strong parallel between the comic (as Bergson analyzes it) and the cruel, and the author's own unpacking of this similarity was disappointingly brief and shallow. Then again, I read this quickly and might have missed something.
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Quotes Maria Liked

Henri Bergson
“Might not certain vices have the same relation to character that the rigidity of a fixed idea as to intellect? Whether as a moral kink or a crooked twist given to the will, vice has often the appearance of a curvature for the soul. Doubtless there are vices into which the soul plunges deeply with all its pregnant potency, which it rejuvenates and drags along with it into a moving circle of reincarnations. Those are tragic vices. But the vice capable of making us comic is, on the contrary, that which is brought from without, like a ready-made frame into which we are to step. It lends us its own rigidity instead of borrowing from us our flexibility. We do not render it more complicated; on the contrary, it simplifies us. Here, as we shall see later in the concluding section of this study, lies the essential difference between comedy and drama. A drama, even when portraying passions or vices that bear a name, so completely incorporates them that the person is forgotten, their general characteristics effaced, and we no longer think of them at all, but rather of the person in whom they are assimilated; hence, the title of a drama can seldom be anything else than a proper noun. On the other hand, many comedies have a common noun as their title: L'Avare, Le Joueur etc.”
Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic


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