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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 20, 2008

Laughter, desire, and time

  • Mark C Weeks EMAIL logo
From the journal HUMOR


Laughter has achieved special significance within some of the more radical postmodern, and especially poststructuralist, discourses as an icon of liberated desire. Yet there is a sense in which laughter is anything but the expression of libidinal force, in which it can be seen to reflect a momentary subversion of desire. To understand this, poststructuralist linguistic theory itself can be employed (against itself), because in the linguistic philosophy of Jacques Derrida in particular there is a unique acknowledgment of the temporal dimension of communication and thought, and of the relationship of this to human desire. Such a model of communication provides insights into the way in which laughter is produced through the subversion of the human experience of temporality — and of desire, an effect of delayed satisfaction. The present article draws widely on the comic theoretical heritage, seeking to synthesize existing theories into a time-based model of how, and why, laughter is produced.

Published Online: 2008-02-20
Published in Print: 2002-11-22

© Walter de Gruyter

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