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Comedy: "An Essay on Comedy" by George Meredith. "Laughter" by Henri Bergson Paperback – March 1, 1980

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Probably the two best looks at the lighter side are these essays, the first by a master of the English novel of manners, the second by a philosopher who influenced a generation of French writers, including Proust... Contains a long index and appendix, the latter offering a wide-ranging historical inquiry into the comic.

(Washington Post Book World)

From the Back Cover

Bergson's essay looks at comedy within a wider field of vision, focusing on laughter and on what makes us laugh. His study examines comic characters and comic acts, comedy in literature and in children's games, comedy as high art and base entertainment, to develop a psychological and philosophers theory of the mainsprings of comedy.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (March 1, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801823277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801823275
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
Henri Bergson describes why we laugh, and subdivides this description further into three characteristics. Each of these characteristics is then divided further occassionally. Example: >We laugh at mechanical rigidity. The three types are repetition, inversion, and reciprocal interference of series. An example of repetition is a frozen facial expression (repetition) and is comical only if it's imitatable.< Then he proceeds to give examples of word play, character, actions, etc which illustrate his points.
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Format: Paperback
Bergson's _Laughter_ has been out of print for too long. It's the best theoretical study of comedy available. A meditation by the great philosopher of "elan vital" about our natural response to humans acting mechanically, _Laughter_ is also about the nuts and bolts of comedy. Moliere is the main model, but it works for Shakespeare, Chaplin and Preston Sturges just as well.
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By A Customer on June 14, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Bergson offers a taxonomy of laughter. The description is concise, realistic, and rife with examples. He begins with a broad definition of anything that is laughable and further narrows the definition where appropriate. Never have I encountered an example not explainable by this.
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Format: Paperback
This review is partial, and does not include the major essay of Wylie Sypher that serves as epilogue for the essays of Meredith and Bergson.

Meredith, Bergson, and Freud are among the few who so far as I know have presented major theories of comedy and laughter. Meredith's discussion of comedy involves a distinction between the low comedy of laughing, slapstick and its varieties, and the high comedy of intellectual perception. This latter is his main interest and involves as he understands it our discernment of some distinction between ideal and real. It is this high comedy which is a moral corrective and enables us to put the arrogant, and rude in their place.

For Bergson the theory is a theory of laughter. It has to do with his own major philosophical distinction between the 'mechanical ' and the ' spontaneous' between the rigid and that which flows. For Bergson laughter can come at our observation of someone walking along and falling down, comes as some kind of break in the expected pattern of motion and action.

Neither of these theories begins to cover all the different kinds and ways we smile and laugh at others. They are , as I understand it a start at trying to find the essence of a set of realities which may in fact have more than one essence.

These works then as I understand it are invaluable starting points for thinking more deeply about the subjects of what comedy and laughter are .

And writing this I am quite dismayed how humorless it is.

And this as if to remind that true comedy ( at least as literature( requires a power of invention and creation out of the ordinary.

Is this perhaps the ' germ' of another way of thinking about comedy i.e. as a special kind of human inventiveness involving surprise
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