Comedy Meaning and Form
by Robert Willoughby Corrigan
Paperback: 335 pages
Publisher: Harpercollins College Div; 2 Sub edition (December 1980)
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
the curse of the old world rumble
By Bruce P. Barten on November 1, 2011
This collection of essays is mainly concerned with the kind of experience that has turned into home entertainment in a society that started life by popping a wheelie that goes on forever. Lacking any serious limits on the dynamic nature of subjective creativity, we may never exhaust all the possibilities expressed by Al Capp in “It’s Hideously True” in section VI on Farce, Satire, and Tragicomedy. At the end, wisdom from the old world pops up in selections by Molière, Charles Baudelaire, George Meredith, and Henri Bergson. This second edition was revised to reflect the scholarly interest in comic cognition just before President Ronald Reagan was shot at in the first year he was president by a young family member in the circle of friends of Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush. Someone had to see blood before there was official recognition that the president had been shot.
Spirit is much more lively than the immortality that was assumed in the philosophy of Kant. Ancient traditions concerning the exchange of women assumed static lives in which Kant’s time machine was stuck in the ideas of religion, morality, and stars that had orbits. Then America’s national debt went into orbit around a black hole. In Part 4 of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche had Zarathustra stumble over a scientist studying the brain of the leech. Instead of presenting religion or philosophy as an accepted epistemic modality, farce leaves the mind in a lurch that helps people recover from the multiplicity of leeches that think they practice medicine by using substances that are not marijuana.
Comedy reaches its own kind of greatness with the feeling:
No person has ever been as brilliant as I have the right to be.
Scholars who know this study drama for examples of godlike knowing. Susanne Langer published Feeling and Form (1953) from which a selection called The Comic Rhythm was included in Corrigan’s book. Quoting a French book by Marcel Pagnol, laughter springs from the person who laughs:
Laughter always – without exception –
betokens a sudden sense of superiority.
“Laughter is a song of triumph,”
“It expresses the laugher’s sudden
discovery of his own superiority
over the person he laughs at.” (p. 75).
As the Bible gets quoted in a tenor Recitativo of a famous oratorio by Handel:
He that dwelleth in heaven
shall laugh them to scorn.
The Lord shall have them in derision.
Religion joins comedy, philosophy, and numerous social activities in providing lame excuses for prone thinkers to join in this kind of behavior. The Saint Paul Police Department even had a laugh of sorts by stopping a concert by Rage Against The Machine in September, 2008.