Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 19, 2013

An existentialist account of the role of humor against oppression

Chris A. Kramer
From the journal Humor

Abstract

I argue that the overt subjugation in the system of American slavery and its subsequent effects offer a case study for an existentialist analysis of freedom, oppression and humor. Concentrating on the writings and experiences of Frederick Douglass and the existentialists Simone De Beauvoir and Lewis Gordon, I investigate how the concepts of “spirit of seriousness”, “mystification”, and an existentialist reading of “double consciousness” for example, can elucidate the forms of explicit and concealed oppression. I then make the case that subversive humor is an effective means to bring to consciousness the inconsistencies and incongruities of the serious oppressors. I also illustrate how humor can act as a bulwark against the rise and persistence of oppression by (non-violently) attacking the absolutist stance on human nature maintained through the use of dominating and “authoritative” language and action.

Published Online: 2013-10-19
Published in Print: 2013-10-25

©[2013] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

Scroll Up Arrow