Humour in Literature

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Humour in Literature

The sign system of the humoristic language and style transfers the emotional, ontological and existential state of mankind or of particular ethnicity. Therefore, the humor differs of different nations and in different periods. It depends on the culture, the time when it happens and also on the individual features of the characters that laugh. Now, Fevr’s idea is clear: “Irony is the daughter of time”. Something that is funny for one person is illogical for another. The subjective reaction of the objective activity is complex and depends upon many factors. They can be of historical, social, national and of individual background. The problem is that there are no definite rules between the comical object and the one who laughs. Experience tells us that there is no situation that is always, and for everybody, funny. This can be confirmed by Goethe’s quotation that people can be distinguished by what they regard as funny. Concerning the different ways nation’s response to jokes and bearing in mind their mentalities Bergson said: “The English laugh three times, first of politeness, then when the joke is explained to them, and at the end when they understand the joke. Germans laugh twice: first of politeness and then when the joke is explained to them because they will never understand it. The French laugh once because they understand everything right away, whilst the Americans never laugh, because they have already heard the joke”19F. Humor is a reflection of ones culture. Thus, Propp20F distinguishes between the humor of the French, which is qualified as likeable and witty humor (Anatole France), and the humor of the Germans, which is rather crude (Hauptmann). English humor is good intentional and ridicules (Dickens, Bernard Shaw), and Russian humor is bitter and sarcastic (Gogol, Shchedrin). Humor expresses the basic physiognomy of culture and shows the weaknesses and strengths of society at that point in evolution. The comical is of great importance and it can be reduced as a revolt against evil, injustice, sinfulness and deformations in society.
Finally, once again we shall go back to the issue of the characteristics, function and meaning of humor as an immanent category of a literary work. The relationship between the comical and the historical is significant. The meaning of humor, understood as accomplishing satisfaction in contrast to the unpleasant or disastrous circumstances, is only one of the aspects. So, humor cannot be understood only as a defense mechanism for releasing unpleasant affects. Still, its complex meaning cannot be reduced to the few Freudian metaphysical explanations. Literary humor emerges as a medium in human relationships, agreements, tactics of behavior, habits and gestures which have their own roles, their own communicational meaning. The situations and conditions make the base of the comical as well as the tendencies to overcome something unpleasant, undoubtfully bad, and in actual fact crude. Purely for the purpose of mentioning, here are the theories in which humor is based on contrasts, on the incongruents, or the denial of the primary expected possibilities. When man experiences his own inferiority and cannot cope with things, he breaks the norms, the order and the common ways of dealing with things and turns to the comical. By stepping out of these frames with humor we confront meaningless.


19. Smeh vekova, (Laughter of the Centuries), compiled by Slavko Krušnik, Džepna knjiga, Sarajevo, 1959, pg.73.
20. Prop V. Problemi komike i smeha, (Problems of Comical and Laughter) Novi Sad, 1984, pg.30.

AuthorJasmina Mojsieva Guševa
2018-08-21T17:24:02+00:00 October 1st, 1998|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 05|0 Comments