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

Risus Sardonicus: Neurotic and pathological laughter

  • Mikita Brottman EMAIL logo
From the journal HUMOR


Taking two moments from literature as a starting point and touchstone, this paper examines the kind of human laughter that is not associated with mirth, or even with humor. There are a number of medical cases in which pathological laughter has been identified as a side effect or symptom of neurological disorder; this paper considers these and other cases, where unexplained pathological laughter seems to be not a symptom of the disease, but the disease itself. Most theorists of laughter inevitably associate it with mirth, joy, moments of rebellion or of “sudden glory.” The paper considers the work of those philosophers and psychoanalysts who believe laughter to be more troublesome than many of us tend to assume, concluding that most human laughter may be as much about neurosis as catharsis, partaking less of the carnival than the apocalypse.

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

© Walter de Gruyter

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