MARXIST HUMOR: UNITY OF THEORY & PRACTICE

Santiago Colas scolas at umich.edu
Mon Jun 5 07:28:37 MDT 1995


I'm not sure I'm a psychoanalytic type, nor even that I'm taking this.
But I think Larry's question is a good one too (as I thought my earlier
questions to Jerry were good ones) in that it begins to unveil the
complexity underlying this issue which has for the most part been handled
in fairly straightforward (and intractable) moral terms (is it
offensive?) or crude ideological terms (is it progressive?).  The point
about humor to me has exactly to do with the category of pleasure which
Larry's honest post invokes.  Finding it funny, laughing, whatever has to
with pleasure.  In this humor can bring us very close to aesthetics in
the sense of a theory of pleasure (and unpleasure)--something I've felt
Marxism not very good at handling or, more precisely, accomodating.  It
doesn't seem in the least bit curious to me that one could find pleasure
in something that is offensive or hurtful or oppressive to someone else.
Since on a daily basis, anytime we take pleasure via any commodity
produced within capital we are doing exactly this.
	Two alternative questions raised by this, already sort of touched
on by others:  a) might pleasure become a more central part of a Marxist
attempt to organize some sort of counter-hegemonic movement; b) we should
recognize also that any discussion of pleasure, anything we can say about
it, or in fact, any of the experiences of it that we might have must be
historicized.  Our pleasures, even our progressive or oppositional
pleasures, are still, as far as I'm concerned, capitalist pleasures in
the broadest sense of the term--also sometimes in a much more immediate
sense.  Is there anything else, really?  And if so, (I imagine most
people on this list thinks there is), how can we leverage such pleasures
into a larger experience in the future?
	To Ralph:  I totally agree that the marxist theory of humor
should be self-exemplifying or whatever you want to call it, as such I"ll
clearly not be the marxist theoretician of humor, cause I'm just not
funny (at least not in any ways that too many on this list wouldn't find
offensive)--so I leave the good jokes to you and Justin.
Take care,

sc

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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
USA

On Sun, 4 Jun 1995 LMILLER at umassd.edu wrote:

> Jokes which are offensive are indeed offensive.  Humor does play a role
> in reproducing existing social relations.  Its an especially effective
> way of putting an uppity....wback in his/her place.  But... to declare
> by ukase that such jokes are NOT FUNNY by order of the correctness office
> or whatever betrays a curious lack of subtlety.  I have been struck on several occassions by the troubling fact that offensive humor, even when it directly
> offends me is recognizably funny, i.e. it engages whatever it is that elicits laughter.  If it wasn't funny it would be less problematic.  How can
> something be funny and enfuriating at the same time... any of the
> psychoananlytic types want to take that one on?
> Larry
>
>
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>


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