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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 31, 2009

Humor and poetry: Snapping out of it

  • Jennifer Michael Hecht
From the journal HUMOR


The article argues that humor and poetry are “arts of sudden knowledge,” along with art, meditation, and psychology. In arts of sudden knowledge one paradigm suddenly gives way to another. They are based on the embarrassment of narrative inventions. Sonnets are particularly associated with turns, usually in the final couplet. Jokes too have a pivot, at the punchline. We live in a moral world that exists within a world in which animals eat each other to live. The parrot is in so many jokes because it highlights the line between who talks and who gets eaten. Two parrot jokes are told in the essay, one in prose, one in poetry. Poetry and humor, like the other arts of sudden knowledge, affect people physically, and we judge poetry and humor by feel. In a discussion of taking an idea from humor to philosophy, the example of today's gym culture is discussed. Kant and Schopenhauer are both cited describing humor as a sudden realization of a mistranslation. A poem by Sarah Manguso is included, from her book Siste Viator, as is a poem by Hecht from her book Funny.

Published Online: 2009-08-31
Published in Print: 2009-August

© 2009 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin

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