The Comic in Theory & Practice

By Elizabeth T. Forter; Alvin Whitley et al. | Go to book overview

Laughter

HENRI BERGSON

Henri Bergson, from "Laughter" [ 1900], tr. Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell, in Comedy ( New York, Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1956).

THE FIRST POINT to which attention should be called is that the comic does not exist outside the pale of what is strictly human. A landscape may be beautiful, charming and sublime, or insignificant and ugly; it will never be laughable. You may laugh at an animal, but only because you have detected in it some human attitude or expression. You may laugh at a hat, but what you are making fun of, in this case, is not the piece of felt or straw, but the shape that men have given it, -- the human caprice whose mould it has assumed. It is strange that so important a fact, and such a simple one too, has not attracted to a greater degree the attention of philosophers. Several have defined man as "an animal which laughs." They might equally well have defined him as an animal which is laughed at; for if any other animal, or some lifeless object, produces the same effect, it is always because of some resemblance[62] to man, of the stamp he gives it or the use he puts it to.

Here I would point out, as a symptom equally worthy of notice, the absence of feeling which usually accompanies laughter. It seems as though the comic could not produce its disturbing effect unless it fell, so to say, on the surface of a soul that is thoroughly calm and unruffled. Indifference is its natural environment, for laughter has no greater foe than emotion. I do not mean that we could not laugh at a person who inspires us with pity, for instance, or even with affection, but in such a case we must, for the moment, put our affection out of court and impose silence upon our pity. In a society composed of pure intelligences there would probably be no more tears, though perhaps there would still be laughter; whereas highly emotional souls, in tune and unison with life, in whom every event would be sentimentally prolonged and re-echoed, would neither know nor understand laughter. Try, for a moment, to become interested in everything that is being said and done; act, in imagination, with those who act, and feel with

-43-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Comic in Theory & Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Part I - Theory 1
  • Humour 3
  • Poetics 5
  • Author's Preface to Joseph Andrews 7
  • The Difficulty of Defining Comedy 10
  • A Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy 12
  • On Wit and Humour 16
  • On Simple and Sentimental Poetry 22
  • On the Essence of Laughter 24
  • The Expression of the Emotions In Man and Animals 29
  • An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit 34
  • Meredith on Comedy 38
  • Laughter 43
  • Laughter 65
  • Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious 69
  • Feeling and Form 81
  • Anatomy of Criticism 87
  • Verbal Behavior 92
  • Introduction to Joseph Andrews 100
  • Some Remarks on Humor 102
  • Notes on the Comic 109
  • The Thread of Laughter 116
  • Part II - Essays, Narratives, & Verse 123
  • My Finandal Career 125
  • On Riding 128
  • Showing Off 133
  • Dr. Arbuthnot's Academy 135
  • You Were Perfectly Fine 141
  • The Catbird Seat 145
  • Laura 154
  • Why I Live at the P.O. 159
  • A Reasonable Facsimile 171
  • A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms 192
  • The Rape of the Lock 257
  • The Cock and the Fox or, The Tale of the Nun's Priest 278
  • The Frogs Asked for a King 300
  • Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes 302
  • The Lemmings: A Philosophical Poem 304
  • Departmental or, the End of My Ant Jerry 309
  • Mehitabel Dances with Boreas 311
  • Macavity: the Mystery Cat 315
  • A Wooden Darning Egg 317
  • The Mad Gardener's Song 318
  • The Flea 320
  • Under Which Lyre 321
  • Part III - For Discussion & Themes 327
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 340

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.