A Marxist theory of Humor?

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Sat Jun 3 06:28:44 MDT 1995


Is it possible for one to develop a Marxist theory of literary
criticism?  What about a Marxist theory of visual arts?  A Marxist theory
of language?  A Marxist theory of ideology?  A Marxist theory of
consciousness?  If you answer yes to any of the above, I don't see how
you can believe that a Marxist theory of comedy is not possible.

I am not attempting below to offer such a theory.  The point that I was
trying to make is that humor has its origins in the conditions of
material reality and is class-specific.

If list participants would simply agree that some forms of humor are
offensive and intended to degrade and demean classes, or nationalities,
or ethnic groups, or women -- and should therefore be avoided -- I think
we could move forward to other topics.  This is not primarily a
theoretical issue, but a practical political question.  I am quite sure,
for instance, that our list members from the ANC are very well aware of
how language and humor can be a means for the continued oppression of
certain groups.  I am rather surprised that other list members don't also
realize this.

Jerry

On Sat, 3 Jun 1995, KERRY wrote:

> :Since you are evidently very interested in the topic of humor, I would
> :ask:  Could you give us the outline of a Marxist theory of humor?
> : Humor is a part of language and ideology, I would suggest.  Humor is
> : often class, race, or gender-based.  It can be a means with which the
> :ruling class continues its domination.  Consequently, there can be
> :progressive humor and reactionary humor, humor which moves the struggle
> :for socialism forward and humor which retards that struggle.  What is
> :humorous for one class is frequently insulting to another.
>
> And they said that this type of structuralist/economistic type of Marxist
> anaylsis died out  over 30 years ... hah :)
>
>
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>


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