"An Essay on Comedy" by George Meredith. "Laughter" by Henri Bergson
Casting a critical eye on comic works throughout the ages, Meredith finds that the most skilled masters of the comic art—Aristophanes, Rabelais, Voltaire, Cervantes, Fielding, Molière—used comedy to grasp the essence of humanity. Comedy, according to Meredith's theory, serves an important moral and social function: it redeems us from our posturings, stripping away pride, arrogance, complacency, and other sins.
Bergson's essay looks at comedy within a wider field of vision, focusing on laughter and on what makes us laugh. His study examines comic characters and comic acts, comedy in literature and in children's games, comedy as high art and base entertainment, to develop a psychological and philosophical theory of the mainsprings of comedy.
Complementing the work of Meredith and Bergson in Wylie Sypher's appendix, as essay that discusses comedy and the underlying comic structure in both anthropological and literaty contexts. Sypher offers an enlightening discussion of the relationship between comedy and tragedy and their link with the ritual purging of evil from a society by means of a scapegoat. He then goes on to examine the guises of the comic hero in such figures as the Wife of Bath, Don Quixote, and Falstaff, relating them to such great tragic figures as Oedipus, Faust, and Hamlet.
Through the many perspectives it offers, Comedy will appeal not only to students of literature and literary criticism, but to those studying philosophy and history as well.
About the Author
Wylie Sypher (1905-1987) was the first Robert Frost Professor of Literature at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. He was twice awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for research in the theory of fine arts and literature.
"Probably the two best looks at the lighter side are these essays, the first by a master of the English novel of manners, the second by a philosopher who influenced a generation of French writers, including Proust... Contains a long index and appendix, the latter offering a wide-ranging historical inquiry into the comic."
Other Titles in LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory
Other Titles in Literary theory