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Comedy, Tragedy, and Religion Paperback – May 27, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0791442067 ISBN-10: 0791442063

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How does a comic vision of life fit into a religious worldview? Doesn't a tragic vision of life better suit a religious vision? Morreall (Taking Laughter Seriously) provides an accessible survey of the roles that comic visions and tragic visions play in various religions. The author opens his study by examining what he sees as the connections between tragedy, comedy and religion. He argues that all three focus on the incongruities of life and the "disparity between the way things are and the way things should be." Thus, he notes, irony is a prominent feature in the attitudes of comedy, tragedy and religion toward the world. Morreall discusses the nature of tragedy and the nature of comedy, respectively, in two short chapters. He concludes that tragedy "recommends that we be emotionally engaged with incongruities and that we overcome and solve them." Comedy, on the other hand, "encourages an emotional disengagement from our own problems... and playfulness and laughter are comic paradigms for responding to real-life incongruities." The author asserts that religion uses elements of both comic vision and tragic vision to address the incongruities of life. In a series of five chapters on Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, he demonstrates the various ways in which each religion appropriates both comic and tragic features in its teachings and practices. For example, he argues that Eastern religions lack a tragic vision of life because they do not focus on an individual struggling amid suffering, while Western religions, on the other hand, do. After a thorough study of the uses of comedy and tragedy in religion, Morreall's engaging little primer concludes that humor "not only fosters virtue, but is best seen as itself a virtue... an intellectual and moral excellence of the highest order." (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this groundbreaking study, Morreall (religious studies, Univ. of South Florida) argues that tragedy, comedy, and religion have been closely linked since the heyday of ancient Greece. All three are concerned with the successes and shortcomings of life; our responses to tragedy and comedy help us understand and evaluate human experience. Morreall analyzes 20 psychological and social contrasts between the tragic and comic worldviews. Through five comprehensive questions on the theme of suffering, he examines elements of both tragedy and comedy from the perspective of Eastern and Western religions. The book closes with a survey of new religions and a chapter on the value of humor in religion. An excellent, well-written study on an overlooked topic, this book makes a unique addition to collections holding more general surveys of world religions and will appeal to scholars and general readers alike.AMichael W. Ellis, Ellenville P.L., NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press (May 27, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0791442063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0791442067
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,938,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jack Crepeau on February 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a graduate student teacher, I use this book because it offers a non-threatening method of showing how different groups in a society can come up with alternative worldviews even if they share the same sacred texts and experiences. Specifically, I love how the author shows that cultural values are more influenced by how a group recounts a story in a comic or tragic manner rather than what the details of a story are. Just because the story may involve a nuclear war or a holocaust or the crucifixion of a leader does not mean that the story must espouse tragic/negative views of human nature.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By xtina on August 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Whoever wrote the Library Journal review has obviously never studied tragedy or religion and has probably never actually read Morreal's book (lucky soul) - or perhaps any book whatsoever. This study is not "groundbreaking"; indeed, it barely even warrants the name study. In this "scholarly" book, Morreal--borrowing liberally from other works--creates a bullet point list of the major characteristics in comedies and tragedies and systematically assigns them to different world religions. For example, comedy often involves power reversals. In Christianity, the last shall be first. Therefore, Morreal concludes that Christianity is largely comic. Why this information is important, relevant, or even interesting, he does not bother to address. There is no depth to this work or even a pretense of depth. An accounting major could have done it.
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