An Anatomy of Humor

Transaction Publishers
Free sample

Humor permeates every aspect of society and has done so for thousands of years. People experience it daily through television, newspapers, literature, and contact with others. Rarely do social researchers analyze humor or try to determine what makes it such a dominating force in our lives. The types of jokes a person enjoys contribute significantly to the definition of that person as well as to the character of a given society. Arthur Asa Berger explores these and other related topics in An Anatomy of Humor. He shows how humor can range from the simple pun to complex plots in Elizabethan plays.

Berger examines a number of topics—ethnicity, race, gender, politics—each with its own comic dimension. Laughter is beneficial to both our physical and mental health, according to Berger. He discerns a multiplicity of ironies that are intrinsic to the analysis of humor. He discovers as much complexity and ambiguity in a cartoon, such as Mickey Mouse, as he finds in an important piece of literature, such as Huckleberry Finn. An Anatomy of Humor is an intriguing and enjoyable read for people interested in humor and the impact of popular and mass culture on society. It will also be of interest to professionals in communication and psychologists concerned with the creative process.

“This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who appreciates humor. It also belongs in the laboratories of psychological researchers investigating when and how we laugh.”—T. Cameron Wild, Contemporary Psychology

“This is a significant book, and it will surely have a welcome place in any professional humor library.”—Don L. F. Nilsen, Humor

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Additional Information

Publisher
Transaction Publishers
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9781412817158
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Language
English
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Genres
Humor / General
Language Arts & Disciplines / Communication Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Just as a distinctive literary voice or style is marked by the ease with which it can be parodied, so too can specific aspects of humor be unique. Playwrights, television writers, novelists, cartoonists, and film scriptwriters use many special technical devices to create humor. Just as dramatic writers and novelists use specific devices to craft their work, creators of humorous materials—from the ancient Greeks to today’s stand-up comics—have continued to use certain techniques in order to generate humor. In The Art of Comedy Writing, Arthur Asa Berger argues that there are a relatively limited number of techniques—forty-five in all—that humorists employ. Elaborating upon his prior, in-depth study of humor, An Anatomy of Humor, in which Berger provides a content analysis of humor in all forms—joke books, plays, comic books, novels, short stories, comic verse, and essays—The Art of Comedy Writing goes further. Berger groups each technique into four basic categories: humor involving identity such as burlesque, caricature, mimicry, and stereotype; humor involving logic such as analogy, comparison, and reversal; humor involving language such as puns, wordplay, sarcasm, and satire; and finally, chase, slapstick, and speed, or humor involving action. Berger claims that if you want to know how writers or comedians create humor study and analysis of their humorous works can be immensely insightful. This book is a unique analytical offering for those interested in humor. It provides writers and critics with a sizable repertoire of techniques for use in their own future comic creations. As such, this book will be of interest to people inspired by humor and the creative process—professionals in the comedy field and students of creative writing, comedy, literary humor, communications, broadcast/media, and the humanities.
Humor, wit, and laughter surround each person. From everyday quips to the carefully contrived comedy of literature, newspapers, and television we experience humor in many forms, yet the impetus for our laughter is far from innocuous. Misfortune, stupidity, and moral or cultural defects, however faintly revealed in others and ourselves, seem to make us laugh. Although discomforting, such negative terms as superiority, aggression, hostility, ridicule, or degradation can be applied to instances of humor. According to scholars, Thomas Hobbes's "superiority theory"—that humor arises from mischances, infirmities, and indecencies, where there is no wit at all—applies to most humor. With the exception of good-natured play, Charles R. Gruner claims that humor is rarely as innocent as it first appears. Gruner's proposed superiority theory of humor is all-encompassing. In The Game of Humor, he expands the scope of Hobbes's theory to include and explore the contest aspect of "good-natured" play. As such, the author believes all instances of humor can be examined as games, in terms of competition and keeping score—winners and losers. Gruner draws on a broad spectrum of thought-provoking examples. Holocaust jokes, sexual humor, the racialist dialogue of such comic characters as Stepin Fetchit and Archie Bunker, simple puns, and many of the author's own encounters with everyday humor. Gruner challenges the reader to offer a single example of humor that cannot be "de-humorized" by its agonistic nature. The Game of Humor makes intriguing and enjoyable reading for people interested in humor and the aspects of human motivation. This book will also be valuable to professionals in communication and information studies, sociologists, literary critics and linguists, and psychologists concerned with the conflicts and tensions of everyday life.
In Blind Men and Elephants, Arthur Asa Berger uses case histories to show how scholars from different disciplines and scholarly domains have tried to describe and understand humor. He reveals not only the many approaches that are available to study humor, but also the many perspectives toward humor that characterie each discipline. Each case history sheds light on a particular aspect of humor, making the combination of approaches of considerable value in the study of social research. Among the various disciplines that Berger discusses in relation to humor are: communication theory, philosophy, semiotics, literary analysis, sociology, political science, and psychology. Berger deals with these particular disciplines and perspectives because they tend to be most commonly found in the scholarly literature about humor as well as being those that have the most to offer. Blind Men and Elephants covers a wide range of humor, from simple jokes to the uses of literary devices in films. Berger observes how humor often employs considerable ridicule directed at diverse groups of people: women, men, animals, politicians, African Americans, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, gay people, straight people, and so forth. The book also explains the risk factor in ridicule as a humorous device. Blind Men and Elephants depicts how one entity or one situation can be viewed in as many different ways as the number of people studying it. Berger also shows how those multiple perspectives, the Rashomon Effect, can be used together to create a clearer understanding of humor. Blind Men and Elephants is a valuable companion to Berger's recent effort about humor, An Anatomy of Humor, and will be enjoyed by communication and information studies scholars, sociologists, literary studies specialists, philosophers, and psychologists.
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