A Marxist theory of Humor?

Santiago Colas scolas at umich.edu
Sat Jun 3 11:35:22 MDT 1995


Could you elaborate, if you aren't already tired of being on the hot seat
for this topic, on the distinction you make between "theoretical issue"
and "practical political question"?  And then also, to say something
about how one determines first, what the "intentions" of a particular
statement (humourous or otherwise) might be?  what its effects (e.g.
giving offense) might be and for whom?  What the relations between
"intentions" and effects might be?  And, of course, what sorts of forces
(I'm thinking, primarily, of class relations) shape these three things
(intentions, effects, relations) and how?  I know you disclaimed the post
reproduced below as not a theory of humor, perhaps getting at some of
these question might at least begin to expose some of the presuppositions
upon which such a theory might rest...



Santiago Colas					e-mail:	scolas at umich.edu
Asst. Professor					phone:	(313) 763-4352
Latin American and Comparative Literature	fax:	(313) 764-8163
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI  48109-1275

On Sat, 3 Jun 1995 glevy at acnet.pratt.edu wrote:

> 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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