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Title:Humour in literature: Three levels
Author(s):Gloss, Teresa Guerra
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Literature, Romance
Literature, American
Literature, English
Abstract:Humour, depending on the level of comprehension of the audience to which it is directed, may be divided in three levels for analysis. There is a universal humour that can be understood by everybody, without regard to culture or formal education. This humour, generally known as physical comedy, is of the cinematic or visual type, it is the humour in the silent movies, the early theatre and the circus. I have called this kind of humour visual because it is usually concerned with images.
Humour at the second level need not be as visual as on the first level. Sexual, political, or religious jokes, where humour acts as a relief from repression or inhibition, belong here. This kind of humour has a close relationship with repression; it is also connected to the culture. It is necessary to be familiar with the culture's values and restrictions in order to enjoy the joke. Sexual humour connects with scatological humour, but requires a higher level of understanding or maturity. Comic types belong in this second level of humour.
The third level of humour requires a high command of language and its stylistic devices. Its main channel of expression is irony. The audience for this sophisticated humour is cultivated and refined. In it we distinguish two kinds: compassionate, directed to the heart; intellectual, directed to the mind. It is an elitist or high class humour. The humour of the third level never loses its touch of class and charity.
The study, focused on the narrative, is limited to examples of a few authors as representative of different cultures that, in spite of their differences, happen to have some elements in common. I emphasize two British authors, Chaucer and Dickens; two Spanish, Cervantes and Baroja; two Italian, Boccaccio and Ariosto; and one American, Saul Bellow. As the possibilities of the lower levels become exhausted the individuals and genres tend to move to the higher levels of humour. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Gloss, Teresa Guerra
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI8924822
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI8924822

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