In Praise of Comedy: A Study in Its Theory and Practice

In Praise of Comedy: A Study in Its Theory and Practice

In Praise of Comedy: A Study in Its Theory and Practice

In Praise of Comedy: A Study in Its Theory and Practice

Excerpt

In connection with the effort to orient the reader toward the understanding of the theory of comedy here presented, certain problems have arisen. For instance, it is the fault of the many one-sided treatments that rational understanding seems to clash with intuitional appreciation. There is the viewpoint of logical analysis according to which comedy is relegated to its place on a plane with tragedy where it becomes part of the general theory of aesthetics. And there is the other viewpoint according to which comedy consists in the emotional reaction of laughter to situations themselves intrinsically neutral. But comedy is susceptible both of more exact definition and of wider penumbral meaning than is usually supposed. The task has been to show the two conceptions of comedy are not contradictory but rather mutually implicative; and this has required an historical as well as a logical approach.

Another important problem should perhaps be mentioned. Novelty seems to be continually at odds with tradition, so that the claims of either appear to vitiate those of the other. In one sense there is nothing new in the world, and so the plan has been to show by means of an historical survey how something approaching the theory of comedy here set forth has been foreshadowed--or else mistaken--by traditional thinkers and actors of the subject. Yet there is another sense in which everything that happens is novel, and therefore the opportunity has been taken to compare this theory with other contemporary notions as to the true nature of comedy, and to seek for illustrations among a variety of living comedians.

The question of treatment has also had to be resolved. The work does not contain any pretensions to elaborate scholarship, but neither on the other hand is it a joke-book, being suggestive rather than exhaustive of the different kinds and varieties of humour. It should probably be stated at the outset that secon-

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