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Publication[ edit ] The three essays were first published in the French review Revue de Paris. A book was published in by the Alcan publishing house. It was reprinted in by the Presses Universitaires de Franceon the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bergson. In a foreword published inbut suppressed inBergson explains that through the three articles, he wanted to study laughterespecially the laughter caused by the comic, and to determine the principal categories of comic situations, to determine the laws of the comic.
He also added a list of works and studies about laughter and the comic. In the preface written in to replace the initial foreword, Bergson explains that his method is entirely new because it consists in determining the process of the comic instead of analyzing the effects of the comic.
He specifies that his method does not contradict the results of the other one, but he assumes that it is more rigorous from a scientific point of view. He adds a larger bibliography.
The first essay is made up of three parts: His ambition is also to have a better knowledge of society, of the functioning of human imagination and of collective imagination, but also of art and life.
A landscape cannot be a source of laughter, and when humans make fun of animals, it is often because they recognize some human behaviour in them. Man is not only a being that can laugh, but also a being that is a source of laughter.
One who is excluded from a group of people does not laugh with them; there is often a complicity in laughter. Thus, the comic is not a mere pleasure of the intellect, it is a human and social activity; it has a social meaning.
The social role of laughter Bergson now assumes that the comic requires the use of intelligence instead of sensibility, and he tries to determine what is the real role of intelligence in a comic situation. He takes the example of a man falling down in the street in front of passers-by.
Laughter is caused by an accidental situation, caused by a movement. The source of the comic is the presence of a rigidity in life. Life is defined by Bergson a perpetual movement, it is characterized by flexibility and agility.
Comic situations, such as that of a falling man, are situations where movement is not flexible. However, the comic is not only based upon unusual situations, but also upon characters and individuals.
Bergson takes the example of absent-minded people, a common source of comedy.
People tend to associate individuals with a comic character, which increases the comic. In addition, when we make fun of somebody for one of his vices, it is because the individual is unaware of his own vice while we are aware of it. Thus laughter forces people to be better and to suppress their vices, because laughter makes them be conscious of them.
This is why Bergson asserts that laughter has a moral role, it is a factor of uniformity of behaviours, it eliminates ludicrous and eccentric attitudes: Comic and forms of materiality Laughter can be caused by ugliness, but ugliness is not always comic.
To laugh about ugliness, we need to have a naive, immediate, original approach, not to think. We also have to focus on a specific feature of the person and to associate the person with this feature.
It is the same with cartoonists, who exaggerate physical and natural features of people.
Our imagination sees in everyone the efforts of the soul to dynamise materiality, the soul or the mind give flexibility, agility and animation to the rigid body and to materiality. However the body tends to rigidify itself, and it produces a comic effect:Editions for Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic: (Paperback published in ), (Mass Market Paperback published in Laughter is a collection of three essays by French philosopher Henri Bergson, first published in It was written in French, the original title is Le Rire.
Essai sur la signification du comique ("Laughter, an essay on the meaning of the comic"). Immediately download the Laughter: an Essay on the Meaning of the Comic summary, chapter-by-chapter analysis, book notes, essays, quotes, character descriptions, lesson plans, and more - everything you need for studying or teaching Laughter: an Essay on the Meaning of the Comic.
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