Monday, 20 June 2011

Laughter as metaphor

Laughter too … whatever the many theories of laughter say (and there have been many), the salmon-leap of laughter itself is always metaphorical—a conceptual knight’s move, a joyful wrongfooting. 'Hello, I'd like to buy some fish and chips please!' 'But ... but this is a library!' 'Oh, I'm sorry! [whispers] I'd like to buy some fish and chips, please.' This has the same structure as a regular metaphor: the set up that leads you (Achilles, yes, the mighty warrior, right ...) via a sudden creative twist (is a lion!) to a place of conceptual understanding, a rebalancing that restores the comprehension via a pleasureable release of libidinal energy (I see: in that sense ...) It is uniquely metaphorical, and explain why -- for instance -- Dali's surreal paintings, although they deal with weird juxtapositions and subconscious anxieties and all the things regular theorists of laughter claim ought to be funny, do not make us laugh. They are symbolic; they are not metaphorical in this sense.

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