When I was a freshman, I had to write a literary analysis around twice a week for my writing 101 course. When I saw that the blog was an analysis I sort of flinched and had a horrible flashback to my earlier days at Loyola. My professor was very particular on how we should write the papers, so naturally I wrote this how she would want it (in not a very fun way).
There are several theories about laughter and humor that have been developed over the centuries. These theories are present in literary works and in everyday life. Plato, Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, and Soren Kierkegaard all display logic and reason in their Literature to demonstrate their views on laughter and humor. Their reasoning is very straightforward as their goal is to get their point across to the reader. Humor comes in many different situations, as it is so explained by many of the philosophers. For example, humor is present in the strife for justice. Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s The Service of Faith and The promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, both demonstrate some of the theories of humor. This paper will demonstrate how writers used reason to come to conclusions on theories of humor, and how some theories are present in some of King and Kolvenbach’s writing.
Most of the philosophical writing on humor is somewhat bland and primarily written using reason. A prime example of this is Plato’s Philebus, because Protarchus and Socrates are simply having a question and answer style discussion. Plato uses this style, as it is the traditional style of writing philosophy, to conclude that laughter and humor is bad for the soul. While it is mostly bland, Kant uses jokes to explain his theory of humor. For example, he tells a funny story and says, “When we hear thus story, we laugh loud, and the reason is that an expectation is suddenly transformed into nothing” (Kant 48). Primarily, the language and structure the philosophers use is based on their reasoning.
The works on justice have much more variety in language, structure, and are far easier to digest then the writings on the theories of Laughter and Humor. For example Kolvenbach gives the metaphor of the Jesuit schools as a microchip in Silicon Valley (Kolvenbach). The microchip describes the Jesuits as hard working educators that have the ability to change the world. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail is written as a reply to some Alabama officials and religious figures. King also uses rhetorical devices, such as powerful rhetorical questions on the subject of justice. Some of the subjects King touches on relates to some of the theories of humor. For example a rhetorical question from his son says, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?” (King 2) This relates to Hobbes superiority of laughter, because the injustice done to minority races gives white people a sense of superiority. Kolvenbach also demonstrates Kierkegaard’s theory of “the comical” or contradiction in his essay. He says, “In Beirut we were well aware that our medical school, staffed by very 23 holy Jesuits, was producing, at least at that time, some of the most corrupt citizens in the city…” (Kolvenbach). While Kolvenbach and King discuss serious topics on justice, there are still traces of the theories of humor in their writing. This just goes to show that there is a little bit of humor in all literature.