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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Volume 31, Issue 4


Humorous sublimation of a dying Cuban writer in Reinaldo Arenas’ The Color of Summer

Christophe PanichelliORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1446-1364 / Stéphanie Panichelli-BatallaORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9237-0946
Published Online: 2018-08-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0052


How does a human being deal with suffering? How can we emotionally cope with the vicissitudes of life, especially in times where they suddenly multiply themselves? In this study, we present an innovative interdisciplinary study on the use of coping mechanisms by career writers dealing with difficult life events. We focus in particular on the use of humor and sublimation, two creative mental mechanisms that contribute to the lowering of anxiety while at the same time dealing constructively with the external stressors. Never before have these mechanisms been studied in a complementary way in the context of a literary study. This paper offers an in-depth analysis of Reinaldo Arenas’ The Color of Summer. In this novel, this Cuban author introduces an autobiographical perspective of the Cuban sixties and seventies, intending to present a facet of history that would never appear in Cuban history books. The combination of both coping mechanisms, which we call humorous sublimation, offers a novel that not only helped the author cope with his tormented life, but also allowed the reader to gain an understanding of a dark period of Cuban history by means of a very funny and surreal reading.

Keywords: humor; sublimation; coping; defense mechanisms; Cuban literature; Reinaldo Arenas

*Christophe Panichelli and Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla contributed equally to this work.


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About the article

Christophe Panichelli

Christophe Panichelli, MD is a psychiatrist and systemic family therapist in private practice in Liège, Belgium. He has published several papers about the potential functions and risks of humor in psychotherapy in international peer-reviewed journals such as the American Journal of Family Therapy. In particular, he described the influence of autoreferential paradoxes on psychological well-being, and introducing the concept of “auto-double-bind,” a situation that can be solved with the use of humor. He has presented his work at international conferences such as the European Association for Psychotherapy in Florence, Italy (June 2007), and the World Congress for Psychotherapy in Durban, South Africa (August 2014). His current research studies the link between the presence of humor inside psychotherapy sessions and the outcome of psychotherapy.

Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla

Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla is an Associate Professor in Global Sustainable Development at the University of Warwick. She is the co-author of the book Gabo y Fidel. El paisaje de una amistad (Espasa 2004). She has published several papers on Reinaldo Arenas’ literary work and her latest book, El testimonio en la Pentagonía de Reinaldo Arenas, was published by Tamesis, Boydell & Brewer, in August 2016. Her current research focuses on the use of oral history to explore the construction of alternative, subaltern narratives of Cuban identity ‘from below,’ with a particular interest in the community of Cuban healthcare professionals who participated in the Cuban International Solidarity Programme.

Published Online: 2018-08-11

Published in Print: 2018-09-25

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 31, Issue 4, Pages 623–643, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0052.

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