Existential laughter

John Lippitt

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Each of the previous three articles in this series has examined one of the three main traditions of humour theory; those based around incongruity, superiority and the release of energy. We have seen that each of these theoretical traditions sheds some light upon humour and laughter, but also that all fail in their overly ambitious task of offering a fully comprehensive theory. This has not deterred some scholars from wanting to develop such a theory; perhaps by incorporating the best features of each of the main three theoretical traditions into one 'super-theory'. But while it is true that such a synthesis of theories might be superior, as a theory, to each by itself, such a technique would still not give us an adequate general theory. Why? Because we have seen that the inadequacies of the theoretical traditions are not merely those of omission; inadequacies which could be resolved by supplementing any given theory with insights from alternative perspectives. Rather, some of the most important problems are intrinsic to the theories themselves; most notably, the need to stretch terminology, to a sometimes ludicrous degree, which we observed in both the incongruity and superiority traditions. [opening paragraph]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-72
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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